Skip to main content

Full text of "The influence of Baudelaire in France and England"

See other formats


Presented to the 
LIBRARY of the 



A- F. V. Clark 


Booksellers Ltd. 

94 Gower Street 
W.C. i 











THE critic's part is to listen to the echoes of a soul (the 
soul of a thinker or artist) as they sound through the 
world. Doubtless his first duty is to study at once the 
author he wishes to reveal to the public. But criticism 
as understood in these days has far too great a tendency 
to develop into a study 'of pathological psychology, and 
the critics are at pains to prove with mathematical 
precision that Goethe was a ' superior degenerate,' 
Flaubert a neurotic, Edgar Poe a drunkard. Does that 
explain why these three writers had so great an 
influence ? 

Sainte-Beuve discovered that there existed ' families of 
minds.' Quite so if we understand by that that it is 
impossible to isolate a writer from his age. But if 
genius is a product, a product of its race, its surroundings, 
and its times, it is also, and above all, a cause. Genius, 
through its own power, creates its own surroundings 
that is what Taine would not see. 

Baudelaire seems to us essentially the writer who, 
though he shows us the times and the surroundings in 
which he lived, above all shows us the strength of the 
genius who imposes himself on the world, of the man 
but for whose life, but for whose work, the world would 


in some way, great or small, have been other than 
it is. 

His influence has been maintained through fifty years 
of literary history, and we have found pleasure in listen- 
ing, in the works of later writers, for the magic echoes 
of the voice that is still. 






BAUDELAIRE ........ 21 


I. EDGAR POE ...... 63 

II. SAINTE-BEUVE ...... 73 


IV. PETRUS BOREL . . . . . .102 

V. THEOPHILE GAUTIER . . . . .116 


I. VlLLIERS DE L'lSLE ADAM . . . .123 

II. BARBEY D'AUREVILLY . . . . -135 

III. VERLAINE . . . ( . . 146 

IV. TRISTAN CORBIERE . . . .^ .160 
V. HUYSMANS . . . . . .165 

VI. MAURICE ROLLINAT . . . . .176 

VII. RODENBACH . . . . . .184 

VIII. MALLARM ...... 194 

IX. ALBERT S AMAIN ..... 200 

X. JULES LAFORGUE . . . . .206 

XI. LIVING POETS . . . . . .213 





I. INTRODUCTORY ....'.. 219 
II. SWINBURNE . ,. . '. . , . 222 


IV. OSCAR WILDE . . . . . . 237 




CONCLUSION ....... 288 

BOOKS OF REFERENCE . . . . . .291 

INDEX ........ 299 



THERE exists a state of mind, or rather a manner of feeling, 
which has grown upon a great number of nineteenth- 
century writers. The critics and the public without 
coming to a mutual understanding about it gave it the 
name of * Baudelairism,' doubtless because Baudelaire is 
certainly the writer who was most intimately acquainted 
with, and who most experienced those subtle and intricate 
feelings, the expression of which we find in the works of 
a large number of nineteenth-century writers. 

The fact that he founded a literary school which to this 
day has many disciples would alone serve as a justifica- 
tion for undertaking this study. 

But the few moralists who have studied Baudelaire's 
work have been able to see in it nothing but a kind of 
love of evil and a theory of decadence. If we must 
recognise that such a criticism may apply to a few 
disciples of Baudelaire, yet it appears to us to be a duty 
to demur forthwith to such an ingenuous theory. 

Here again, in the search for precise terms, truth has 
been passed over. 

The sentiments of men and women are so complex, they 
come, they throng in upon us with such rapidity, and in 
such vast numbers, that it were really too presumptuous to 
wish to tie them down into some little formula. 

Perhaps such an indiscriminate view would have been 
avoided if the critics had sought to discover the causes of 


this state of mind, when, having discovered them, they 
would have found themselves in the company of such 
essentially reasonable and in nowise decadent writers as 
Benjamin Constant, Alfred de Vigny, and Sainte-Beuve. 

Finding themselves in this way in the presence of men, 
they would have been in the presence of reality, and 
would have had less chance of being led into error than 
by following the will-o'-the-wisp of their imagination 
christened for the occasion ' spirit of criticism.' 

For whomsoever would understand Baudelaire, the first 
book to be taken is Benjamin Constant's Adolphe. 

Benjamin Constant's Adolphe, like Voltaire's Candide, 
or the Abbe Prevost's Manon Lescaut, is one of those 
little books that travel through the ages with nothing to 
fear from the ravages of time. 

It is now nearly a hundred years since it was written, 
and it remains as true and as living as on its first appear- 
ance. Such an accent of truth passes through it that no 
psychologist can afford to ignore it. At the end of his 
little book the author says : 

' I hate that vanity which is occupied with itself in recounting the 
evil it has wrought, which under pretence of gaining pity describes 
itself, and which towering among ruins analyses itself instead of 

Now, that is precisely what Benjamin Constant did 
himself in his story, and what Baudelaire later on was to 
do so well. 

M. Paul Bourget devoted a study to Adolphe, which is 
so acute that we would wish to quote it in its entirety. 
We will content ourselves, however, with quoting a few 
essential sentences which will allow us in our turn to go 
a little further. 

1 It would seem that this detestable acuteness of conscience cannot 
be dulled even by the burning dissolving joy of a most keenly felt 
passion. It might even be said that therein lies the whole drama 


of Adolphe : the continual destruction of Love by analysis in the 
young man's heart, and the continual effort on his mistress's part to 
reconstruct by dint of passion and tenderness that feeling which 
she sees decaying. When he is with her he begins again to love 
her; when he is far from her he becomes once more bent upon 
destroying his own emotion, till Elleonore, at the end of this singular 
contest which is wellnigh unintelligible for her, feels that infinite 
lassitude which makes her long for death. She has spent years 
intoxicating herself with her love, believing herself intoxicated with 
the love of them both. This is almost Adolphe's formula. She 
understands it, she feels it, and she writes that heart-breaking letter : 
* " Pourquoi vous acharncz-vous sur mot?" . . .' 

It seems to us that M. Bourget might have gone 
further, and said that the whole drama of Adolphe lies 
not only in the continual destruction of the love in the 
young man's heart by analysis, but in the continual 
reconstruction of this love by the young man. 

Away from his mistress, Adolphe knows that he causes 
her suffering, and is sorry for it, then he comes back to 
her in a great impulse of love. 

'At the same time I was horribly afraid of hurting her. The 
moment I saw a pained expression on her face, her will was mine. 
I was only at my ease when she was pleased with me. When, after 
insisting upon the necessity of going away for a few minutes, I had 
succeeded in leaving her, the idea of the pain I had caused her 
followed me everywhere. I was seized with a fever of remorse that 
grew momentarily stronger, and which finally became irresistible; 
I flew back to her, looking forward to consoling and pacifying her.' 

And the tragic story goes on with what I would venture 
to call the very switchback of love. 

In the end all that remains is the pleasure Adolphe finds 
in analysing himself. 

Now, herein lies a psychological problem so important, 
that we must pause for a little to consider it. 

The majority of philosophers have remarked upon that 
curious state of mind in which a sufferer rejoices in his 
suffering which he analyses, and in reality admires. 


The most recent of these, Herbert Spencer, in the 
second volume of his Psychology^- analyses those feelings 
which he calls ' the luxury of pity and the luxury of pain.' 
We quote one of the passages, though submitting at once 
that we only accept Herbert Spencer's explanation for a 
certain number of cases, and that had he read Adolphe^ 
he would have given a more complete explanation : 

* All those cases where the luxury of pity is experienced are cases 
where the person pitied has been brought by illness or by misfortune 
of some kind to a state which excites this love of the helpless. 
Hence the painful consciousness which sympathy produces is com- 
bined with the pleasurable consciousness constituted by the tender 
emotion. Verification of this view is afforded by sundry interpreta- 
tions it yields. Though the saying that " pity is akin to love " is not 
true literally, since in their intrinsic natures the two are quite unlike, 
yet that the two are so associated that pity tends to excite love is a 
truth forming part of the general truth above set forth. That 
pleasure is found in reading a melancholy story or witnessing a 
tragic drama is also a fact which ceases to appear strange, and we 
get a key to the seeming anomaly that very often one who confers 
benefits feels more affection for the person benefited than the person 
benefited feels for him.' 

At first sight we are inclined to agree with Herbert 
Spencer, and to content ourselves with his explanation, 
but when we come to think of Adolphe we see that this 
explanation does not cover all the phenomena. 

Adolphe is essentially an egoist ; Benjamin Constant 
enjoyed the egoistic pleasure of pity. This man who seeks 
to kill the love he feels, and in which he is as it were 
immersed, and who then works himself into ' a fever from 
fear of not seeing her whom he loves,' this man who is 
continually analysing himself, who loves sorrow for 
sorrow's sake, and enjoys at once the luxury of pity and 
the luxury of pain this man brings us to an explanation 
of these phenonema quite different from that of Spencer. 

Before explaining them we should recognise that they 
1 pp. 624-9. 


are very well known, only Adolphe was able to analyse 
them, and analysed them most admirably. 

Let us have recourse to our own daily observation. 
We all know people, among our relatives or among our 
friends, who take pleasure in tormenting themselves, and 
who never seem really happy unless they have a pretext 
for being sad. We also know people in whom pity is not 
unaccompanied by a hint of malevolence. La Rochefou- 
cauld declares that in the misfortune of our dearest friends 
there is something which is not displeasing to us. And 
with this idea of La Rochefoucauld's should be compared 
Tolstoy's remark in his Memoirs, where he says, speaking 
of a girl : ' She pleased me so much that I felt an irresistible 
desire to do or say something that would be disagreeable 
to her.' 

Shall we also quote Shelley, who writes in the Defence 
of Poetry : 

' Tragedy delights by affording a shadow of the pleasure which 
exists in pain. This is the source also of the melancholy which is 
inseparable from the sweetest melody. The pleasure that is in 
sorrow is sweeter than the pleasure of pleasure itself. And hence 
the saying : " It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the 
house of mirth."' 

Again, we remember the exclamation of Alfred de 
Musset: ' How does it come to pass that there exists in us 
something that loves unhappiness?' 

We see then that the phenomenon is well known. 
Further proofs can be found in consulting records of 
trials ; it will be frequently found that man will harm that 
which he loves, merely for the sake of watching its 

The famous George Selwyn the living embodiment 
of Villiers de 1'Isle Adam's convive des dernieres fetes 
is another example of the same phenomenon. 

How then shall we explain this? Just as our soul 
is in nowise immutable, but is open to evolution and 


modification, even so is our mind a great battlefield where 
all our feelings struggle against one another with a tend- 
ency to destroy each other. 

In Adolphe as in all men the various states of mind 
are at issue with one another. Adolphe is at once love 
and hatred, just as we at once are good and evil. 
Benjamin Constant is in love and suffers, which is the 
most natural thing in the world : because love makes 
us doubt even of the most proven facts ; because love 
engenders doubts of love. That Adolphe should take 
pleasure in his pain, that he should analyse it, delight in 
it, that he should now love and now hate, is an entirely 
probable state in the eyes of the psychologist for whom 
conditions of mind are neither precise nor immutable. 

Let us take the most commonplace example. If the 
spectacle of a tragic drama affords us pleasure, it is because 
the representation we make of it for ourselves has not 
suspended all activity of our mind ; it has engaged in a 
contest with other states of mind, and the crash of discord 
has resulted into harmony, and it is this harmony which 
makes us find pleasure in pain. 

When there is suspension of all activity of mind, as the 
result of a truly great sorrow, such as the death of some 
one we have loved, then there is really suffering, because 
there is no longer a struggle.' 1 In the same way, in great 
love, in that love which is stronger than death, there is 
again no contest. Love reigns as a master, to the 
destruction of all other feelings. 

We repeat, pity is far from being always generous. 
The well-known lines of Lucretius, ' Suave mart magno, 
well point out how great is the struggle within us in those 
complex feelings where pleasure is mingled with pain. 
Sorrow tries to disorganise a habit of mind, to disturb the 

1 Cp. D. G. Rossetti, ' Woodspurge ' : 

' For perfect grief there need not be 
Wisdom or even memory. ..." 


quiet of the soul, and does not entirely succeed, and the 
resulting state gives us a feeling of pleasure. 

Now, in an artist, in a man, that is to say, whose senses 
are sharpened, these feelings may be subtilised by reflec- 
tion till they border on perversion. And that is exactly 
what happens with many of Baudelaire's disciples, and 
from time to time with Baudelaire himself. The boundary- 
line between such complex feelings is so fugitive that it is 
impossible for a writer not to cross the frontier. 


The case of Sainte-Beuve, who is the second stage in 
the approach to Baudelaire, seems to be, curiously enough, 
a natural consequence of what we have just advanced, or 
rather suggested. 

Man needs a guiding principle, in accordance with which 
all the elements of his mind shall be regulated, which gives 
to his impressions that spiritual guidance which enables 
him to judge them, to declare them good or bad, and to 
experience from them either pleasure or pain. ' By the 
law is knowledge of sin/ says Saint Paul. 

Now, Sainte-Beuve's novel Volupte will enable us to 
penetrate into one of the most eminent and one of the 
most curious minds of the nineteenth century, and will 
bring us closer to the mind of Baudelaire. Here, again, 
we shall be the spectators of a struggle, the struggle 
between luxury and morality, a spectacle which will make 
us better able to understand, later on, the anguish of the 
author of the Fleurs du Mai. 

Sainte-Beuve had received a deeply religious education, 
to which he was ultimately to owe the power of writing 
his masterpiece Port Royal. But, on leaving college (and 
perhaps even before then), he was preoccupied by the idea 
of pleasure, and soon the idea of luxury entered into his 
soul never to leave it again. 


* From seventeen to eighteen,' says Amaury that is, Sainte-Beuve, 
' this fixed idea of the voluptuous side of things never left me. 
But one day I got into my head the suspicion that I was afflicted 
with a kind of ugliness which would rapidly increase and disfigure 
me ; an icy despair followed upon this so-called discovery. . . . When 
I was with the young men of my acquaintance I was continually 
comparing myself with them, and envying the most foolish coun- 

Thus we find Sainte-Beuve throwing himself desperately 
into excess from pure rage. 

Yet, and this is the important point, excesses, far from 
destroying his soul, that soul which his mother had given 
so much thought to fashioning with her careful pious 
hands, refined it and enabled him to make a great dis- 
covery. Sainte-Beuve is certainly the Amerigo Vespucci 
of that America of which Baudelaire was the Christopher 

'After the first stupefaction ... it came about that I gained 
great knowledge, the subtle recognition of good and evil, ... a 
mysterious and dearly-bought analysis taught me daily some new 
quality in our double nature, and the abuse I was making of both 
sides of it, and the secret of their union. Knowledge in itself 
sterile and powerless, at once instrument and lot of punishment. I 
understand better what man is, what I am, and what I leave behind 
as I penetrate further along the paths that lead to death.' 

So then, the new idea that Sainte-Beuve brings us, and 
which helps us to the better understanding of Baudelaire, 
is this : A system of morality, religious practices, far from 
being an obstacle in the way of sin and the delight in sin, 
may even on the contrary be found to be an aid to the 
delight in sin. 

This fact which may appear paradoxical explains itself 
quite well, if the conditions in which the pleasure or the 
pain are produced have been fully understood. 

The horror of sin is one of the conditions favourable to 
the experiencing of the love of sin, always provided that 


the horror is sufficiently weakened, either by the violence 
of passion or by the pleasure of analysis. Stendhal's 
well-known story of the Italian lady who said to him one 
day : 'Voila un bon sorbet, neanmoins il serait meilleur 
s'il etait un peche ! ' is a proof of the truth of the theory 
we are putting forward. 

And there again is the reason let it be acknowledged 
forthwith why so many ' baudelairising ' writers were, or 
became, Catholics. 

Barbey d'Aurevilly wished to become a believer. He 
wrote to Baudelaire after reading the Fleurs du Mai: 
' There are only two things for the poet who produced 
these blossoms to do : either blow his brains out or 
become Christian. ' Villiers de 1'Isle Adam was a Catholic, 
just as M. Pelladan is, if I am not mistaken. Doubtless 
the Catholicism of these writers is a troubled thing, in 
which priests would refuse to discover any Christianity at 
all ; but enough of this Catholicism exists to impose a rule, 
and this rule in its turn enables them to obtain more 
enjoyment from their sensations. 

This search for sensation necessarily led in the realm 
of language to the most remarkable revolution in style 
ever seen since the seventeenth century, and in the realm 
of ideas, to mysticism and occultism on the one hand, and 
to perversion on the other. 

At first Baudelaire was ranged among the Parnassians, 
and indeed it is to them that he belonged with his theory 
of the superiority of form over content, with his profound 
indifference to everything that is not picture, rhyme, or 

But when the Symbolist school appeared, declaring that 
the Parnassians' day was over, because they lacked mystery, 
how comes it that Baudelaire became the idolised master 
before whom were sacrificed the books of his friends and 
contemporaries ? 

The reason is that with Baudelaire the pursuit of 


sensation had led him to this discovery : Les formes, les 
couleurs, et les sons se repondent. 

Henceforth the art of the poet consisted in discovering 
those mysterious ' correspondences ' which exist between 
all things. This was at one stroke to renew the inspira- 
tion of all French poetry. 

An art of decadence say some, an art of renaissance say 
others in any case an art which is singularly interesting, 
and an admirable expression of its age. 

When Stephane Mallare wrote, 

* To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the power of 
the poem which consists in the delight in guessing little by little ; 
to suggest, that is the dream. It is the perfect employment of this 
mystery which constitutes the symbol : little by little to evoke an 
object, to show a state of the soul, or inversely to choose an object 
and from it evolve a state of mind by a series of decipherings,' 

what was he doing if not continuing in the footsteps of 

The whole theory of the symbolists is contained in 
Baudelaire : for with these poets the great aim is to force 
Nature to deliver up her secret, to reveal what lies hid, 
under the^diversity of things : 'Les formes, les couleurs, et 
les sons se repondent. ' 

Was it not Baudelaire who found in colour, harmony, 
melody and counterpoint ? 

Here again modern art has undergone the influence of 
this theory : we see it in some of the latter-day pictures, 
or in those orchestrations where the strident brass drowns 
the softer voices of violin or flute. 

Arthur Rimbaud's famous sonnet which has been so 
much held up to derision, ' A noir, E blanc, I rouge, 
U vert, O bleu,' etc., what was it but the natural conse- 
quence of the Baudelairian theory ? 

And without going any further if we take the book of 
the moment, Marie Claire, by Marguerite Audoux, we find 


that her most original expressions are such as to rejoice 
the heart of every Baudelairian : 

' Je trouvai que ses paroles avaient une odeur insupportable. En 
la regardant je pensais a un puits profond et noir qui aurait ete 
plein d'eau chaudc? 

1 Les formes ; les couleurs, les sons se repondent.' 

What could be more natural than that such an art 
should please in our age? On the one hand, the excess 
of naturalism with the Zola school was bound to produce 
a violent reaction and make the success of Baudelairism. 
The eye that has long seen nothing but red is only too 
ready to see everything green. 

But the actual life of the present day is far too brutal, 
and Science herself far too pessimistic for the soul not 
to feel the need of taking refuge, as Baudelaire says, 
* anywhere, out of the world.* 

There are no longer monasteries as in the age of the 
barbaric invasions where a tender, sensitive soul could 
withdraw, but, as with Alfred de Vigny and Baudelaire, 
there are minds who have made for themselves an ivory 
tower, an ideal cloister where they can take refuge from 
Voeil des Barbares. 

And here we see the reason why this poetry has re- 
mained the realm of the lettered. The Beauty worshipped 
of these men is not the ideal of the man in the street. In 
this utilitarian world of ours they seek out the pure, 
immaculate goddess whom the dreamers of the Middle 
Ages incarnated in Helen. 

* Ce ne seront jamais ces beautes de vignettes, 
Produits avaries, nds d'un siecle vaurien, 
Ces pieds a brodequins, ces doigts a castagnettes, 
Qui sauront satisfaire un coeur comme le mien.' L Ideal. 

' Je suis belle, o mortels ! comme un reve de pierre, 
Et mon sein, cm chacun s'est meurtri a son tour, 
Est fait pour inspirer au poete un amour 
Eternel et muet ainsi que la matiere. 


Je trone dans 1'azur comme un sphinx incompris, 
J'unis un coeur de neige a la blancheur des cygnes ; 
Je hais le mouvement qui deplace les lignes ; 
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.' La Beautt. 

This desire for beauty is nothing else than the longing 
for harmony which always exists deep down in our nature, 
and which manifests itself the more forcibly in proportion 
as our beliefs are more dispersed and less satisfying. 

Scientific positivism has created a world which is far too 
simple, and from that springs the desire to discover an 
underlying, vast, unknowable world of which we can 
doubtless say nothing, but which satisfies our innate 
desire to live with beauty. 

And in this way we have come back to the methods of 
our ancestors. So do the centuries join hands ! Primitive 
nations expressed their cosmogonies in poems. 

The only reproach that can be made is, that in certain 
cases this pursuit of sensation was really artificial, or if it 
was not completely so at first, became so later on when 
the seekers had recourse to opium and hashish. 


We have already said that if moral faith is needed to make 
a sin appear pleasing, yet at the same time this faith must 
be in a somewhat weakened state. This brings us to the 
third stage before arriving at Baudelaire. 

Alfred de Vigny is certainly the romantic poet (i.e. of 
the precursors of Baudelaire), who reflected most, and 
whose pessimism is the most overwhelming. 

Victor Hugo supplements lack of thought by the rich- 
ness of his images, and even if we grant him the title of 
thinker, he did little more than reflect the opinion of each 
decade he passed through. Alfred de Vigny, on the con- 
trary, is a truly original genius, and with him vigour of 
thought always compensates weakness of expression. 


In order to understand fully the originality of his 
thought, we must remember that when he was writing 
(and how many writers of our own day hold the same 
idea !), the favourite theory was that which the eighteenth 
century had promulgated with such pomp. Nature was 
good, she was a mother ; an unconscious one doubtless, 
but one who watched over our lives. Man was born 
good ; it was religion with its shackles and its super- 
stitions that had made him wicked. Do away with 
religion, and forthwith the golden age would appear on 

Together with this theory there was that Christian belief 
which the Genie du Chris tianisme^ the works of Bonald 
and Joseph de Maistre, the influence of Lamenais and of 
Lacordaire, the early poetry of Lamartine had, as it were, 

Now, Alfred de Vigny was one of the first and certainly 
the first poet to say (and this is why he is still read to-day) 
that the universe offers us in place of that harmony attri- 
buted to it, nothing other than a distressing spectacle. 
Herein he came near the Catholics. If he had only 
repeated in French verse the melancholy music of 
Ecclesiastes, he would still be a great poet, but he would 
not be what he is. But happily for him he came on the 
eve of the publication of Darwin's book, in which his 
readers found a confirmation of the pessimistic doctrine, 
so deeply had that doctrine penetrated all minds. From 
that moment Alfred de Vigny was hailed as Thinker. 

Darwin was always a deist ; doubtless he was grateful 
to God for having created a universe that fitted in so well 
with his theory. 

But the French poet, impatient of any yoke, saw only 
the brutal side of his theory and the struggle for exist- 
ence. In this way the power of religion was growing 
steadily weaker and weaker, and if science became the 
religion of such men as Renan or Taine, a moral anarchy 


was established in those minds which had no taste for 
scientific research. And not only moral anarchy, but a 
feeling a thousand times more painful, that of the solitude 
of the soul. 

If a man belong to a religious sect, when he can take 
refuge in something so definitely consoling, he never 
feels isolated : the soul carries on with God those im- 
mortal dialogues which are the mystic literature of the 
ages. But when he is separated by thought from those 
religious traditions which are like the protection a father 
gives to his child, when he is unable to believe in one or 
other deistic dogma, then a truly terrible solitude grows 
upon him : the anguish of this emptiness is so fearful, and 
human nature has such an instinctive horror of it, that 
perhaps here we are lighting upon the explanation of the 
conversion of a Paul Bourget or a Brunetiere. 

However that may be, Alfred de Vigny is the poet of 
that solitude of the soul, whether he be showing, as in 
1 Moise,' that genius is always lonely ; whether, as in the 
' Mort du Loup,' that admirable poem of Stoicism he 
shows the solitude of the persecuted and dying soul ; 
whether, as in the * Maison du Berger,' he shows the 
solitude of the soul in its happiness ; or whether, as in the 
< Colere de Samson,' he shows the solitude of the soul in 

Solitude of the soul in its happiness, solitude of the 
soul in its love, is that not already Baudelaire? And 
what does the poet of the Fleurs du Mai do, if not 
explain in his own way the anguish of a soul for ever 
in exile, in a land which seems not to be his father- 

And that hatred of woman, 

4 Car plus ou moins la femme est toujours Dalila,' 

do we not find it all through the most immortal passages 
of Baudelaire? 


Let us sum up : 

1. The faculty of self-analysis and self-torment in love 


2. Pursuit of lust mingling with it a kind of sacrilegious 

pleasure (Sainte-Beuve, Volupte). Pursuit of sensa- 
tion at any cost with its inevitable consequences : 
perversity and madness on the one hand, mysticism 
on the other ; creation of a new language. 

3. Moral anarchy, overwhelming pessimism and terrible 

solitude of the soul (A. de Vigny). 

Such in our view are the elements which constitute the 
Baudelairian spirit they will all be found to a greater or 
less degree in the writers we are going to study here ; and 
when we have finished our study we shall not flatter our- 
selves that we have studied all the minds which adorned 
the nineteenth century, but we shall have studied those 
who have expressed its temper, those which make it 
different from the seventeenth as well as from the 
eighteenth century. 



To say, as we have just done, that Benjamin Constant, 
Sainte-Beuve, Alfred de Vigny explain Baudelaire is 
doubtless the important fact for a mind-naturalist. It 
only remains for him to show the intimate connection 
existing between Baudelaire and the end of the nineteenth 
century and he will feel he has acquitted his task well, 
since he will have shown that Baudelaire is the living 
synthesis of some thirty years. 

However, without neglecting that study of his age 
which we look forward to making in due course, we believe 
that the element really necessary in the work of great 
writers is just that mysterious element that they bring 
with them at birth and which they do not owe to the 
influence of their milieu. 

Of course, there is a side of their talent in which they 
resemble their contemporaries, and through which they 
are representative of their age ; but it is the side in which 
they are themselves which is the interesting side for the 
psychologist, for here something new presents itself 
a human personality ; and that is what the ordinary 
reader realises in some way. What does he demand of 
the poet? The explanation of his age ? Not in the least. 
He demands beauty. It matters little to him if the work 
be useless from the social point of view ; the important 
question is, has the artist produced a beautiful work? 

We will allow ourselves a digression in order to be the 
better understood. 

Looking at the masterpieces of Watteau, who would 

suspect that of the thirty-seven years of his life thirty-one 



were passed under Louis xiv., at the end of that reign 
when a great mourning veil seems to enfold the whole 
of France : with defeat following on defeat ; with religious 
persecution ; with the people dying of starvation ; the 
court's brilliance darkened by continual mourning ! 
Watteau did not get his nature from his age ; he was born 
with a certain conception of the beautiful, and tried in 
his turn to express it on his canvas. 

Even so, Baudelaire though he belongs to his age 
much more than Watteau to his was born with a certain 
temperament, and, in addition, the gift of style a gift 
denied to so many great thinkers ! 

It is needless to seek any influence that would explain 
such lines as 

' Toi qui comme un coup de couteau 
Dans mon coeur plaintif es entree,' 

' Que m'importe que tu sois sage 
Sois belle et sois triste.' 

Such lines contain not only the poet's whole mind, but 
something else as well, something mysterious composed 
of a certain kind of temperament and a certain kind of 
imagination, and which cannot be reduced in the crucible 
of analysis. 

As Jules Lemaitre has wittily said in his criticism of 
Sainte-Beuve, the great sin of Sainte-Beuve lies in his 
being unable to write verses that are beautiful enough on 
the subject of his love. 

Baudelaire, on the contrary, has written poems that 
will live as long as the French language. Let us say 
at once, that the great influence he has had is above all 
due to his style, or to his way of feeling and expression. 

Having laid this down we can go forward to study how 
this feeling developed, in what surroundings it lived, in a 
word, to study in the following pages the sorrowful life of 
Charles Baudelaire. 


Baudelaire was born in Paris in 1821. The most im- 
portant event of his youth was the death of his father. 
His mother soon married again, an action which 
Baudelaire never forgave her. ' On ne se remarie pas 
lorsqu'on a des enfants comme moi,' he remarks. His 
stepfather sent him first to the College de Lyon, and later 
to the lycee Louis le Grand, and seems always to have 
cherished great hopes of Baudelaire's talents. Of his 
school days Baudelaire tells us little, though the following 
note from Mon Cceur mis a nu shows that even at that 
time he had no ordinary temperament : * Feeling of 
solitude from my childhood, in spite of my family, and 
above all among my comrades feeling of an eternally 
solitary destiny.' His school education was supplemented 
by the influence of his mother, a fervid and devout 
Catholic, and it is this side of his education which forms 
the first great influence in his life. 

When the time came for him to leave college, 
Baudelaire, to the bitter disappointment of his parents, 
announced his intention of adopting literature as his 
profession. In their anxiety to persuade their son to 
change his mind his parents sent him on a long voyage 
to the East. He was to have gone as far as Calcutta, 
but it seems probable that he went no further than 
Mauritius when he determined to return, and this voyage 
is the second great influence in his life. 

On his return to Paris, Baudelaire absolutely refused 
to change his decision as regards his career, and having 
now attained his majority, sold his property, and with 
the proceeds established himself in Paris and, with his 
naturally insatiable curiosity, set about seeing, observ- 
ing everything. His friends at this moment were Louis 
Menard, Le Vavasseur, Octave Feuillet, Leconte de 
Lisle, Pierre Dupont, Gerard de Nerval, and he was 
acquainted with Balzac and with Theophile Gautier. 

His voyage, however, while it failed to accomplish its 


object, left a lasting impression ; we see its influence in 
the numberless exotic passages, and it is the same thing 
working out in the attraction he found in Jeanne Duval, 
the ' Venus Noire ' who has become an inseparable part 
of the Baudelaire legend. 

Baudelaire met Jeanne Duval in 1842, when she was 
playing in some third-rate theatre. Contemporaries have 
left conflicting accounts of her, some finding her neither 
beautiful nor graceful, others with Baudelaire describing 
her mysterious beauty and her extraordinary grace so that 
meme quand elle marche on croirait qrfelle danse. 

Baudelaire, like the hero of Rodenbach's ' Bruges la 
Morte,' used a living woman as a means for rehabilitating 
the attractions of the past this seems to me the only 
explanation of the attraction Jeanne Duval held for him. 

' Quand, les deux yeux fermes, en un soir chaud d'automne 
Je respire 1'odeur de ton sein chaleureux, 
Je vois se derouler des rivages heureux 
Qu'eblouissent les feux d'un soleil monotone ; 

Une ile paresseuse ou la nature donne 
Des arbres singuliers et des fruits savoureux ; 
Des hommes dont le corps est mince et vigoureux, 
Et des femmes dont Pceil par sa franchise etonne. 

Guide par ton odeur vers de charmants climats 
Je vois un port rempli de voiles et de mats, 
Encor tout fatigue's par la vague marine, 

Pendant que le parfum des verts tamariniers,' 

Qui circule dans Pair et m'enfle la narine, 

Se mele dans mon ame au chant des mariniers. 5 

And again these lines from < La Chevelure ' : 

* La langoureuse Asie et la brulante Afrique, 
Tout un monde lointain, absent, presque defunt, 
Vit dans tes profondeurs, foret aromatique ! 

N'es-tu pas 1'oasis ou je reve, et la gourde 
Ou je hume a longs traits le vin du souvenir?' 


She is for him the * Mere des souvenirs,' and with her, as 
he says, 

' Je sais 1'art d'eVoquer les minutes heureuses 
Et revis mon passe blotti dans tes genoux.' 

At the time when Baudelaire decided to enter the 
honourable profession of letters a change in public taste 
was beginning to appear. Soniething of Wagner's theory 
of the universality of the arts had made its way to Paris. 1 
Painting was very much talked of in literary circles, and 
it is a sign of the times that it was in the guise of art 
critic that Baudelaire first came before the public with his 
Salon of 1845. It was a brilliant piece of criticism here 
is no groping debutant seeking his way ; Baudelaire was 
instantly original and remarkable at once. The Salon 
met with immediate success. 

This success gained him a position on the Corsaire 
Satan. In 1845 he contributed to it two articles of 
literary criticism: ' Les contes normands de Jean de 
Falaise,' and * Romans contes et Voyages d'Arsene 
Houssaye.' In 1846, ' Promethee delivre de N. de 
Senneville' (i.e. Louis Menard), and two more art 
criticisms : * Le Musee classique du bazar Bonne Nou- 
velle,' and the Salon of 1846. Then appeared another 
tale, * Le Jeune Enchanteur,' and two essays, ' Choix de 
maximes consolantes sur 1'amour,' and ' Conseils aux 
jeunes litterateurs.' 

In the same year two more poems appeared in the 
Artiste, ' L'Impenitent ' (Don Juan aux Enfers), and 
' A une Indienne' (a une Malabaraise). 

1 Cp. Gautier : * This intermingling of art with poetry was, and is, one of the 
characteristic signs of the new school, and explains why its first adepts were 
recruited among the artists rather than the men of letters. A host of objects, 
pictures and comparisons, believed to be irreducible to words, entered the 
language, to remain there. The sphere of literature has widened, and now 
encloses the sphere of art in its vast orbit. 


And from 1846 onwards he is continually engaged on 
his translation of Edgar Poe. 

In 1847 he published Le Fanfarlo, whose hero is a 
burlesque of himself. This is how he describes this 
Samuel Cramer : 

1 At once a great idler, sad in his ambition, unhappy in his fame. 
. . . The man of abortive fine works ; a sickly and fantastic creature 
whose poetry shines far more in his person than in his books, and 
who towards one o'clock in the morning, between the flaming of a 
coal fire and the ticking of a clock, always appeared to me as the 
god of impotence a modern and hermaphrodite god impotence 
so vast that it is thereby epic. . . . To the affairs of the mind and 
soul he applied that idle contemplation of Germanic natures, and 
to the practice of life all the whims of French vanity. He would 
have fought a duel for an author or an artist dead two centuries 
since. As he had been furiously devout, he became passionately 
atheistic. He was at once all the artists he had studied and all the 
books he had read, and yet in spite of this actor's faculty he 
remained profoundly original.' 1 

The year 1848 broke up the habit of regular work. 
Baudelaire, for all his aloof, unconcerned pose, was swept 
into the whirl of politics ; the Revolution occupied all his 
thought, and, contrary to our expectations, it was the 
democratic side which enlisted Baudelaire's sympathy. 
In his Fusees he refers to his action : ' My intoxication 
of 1848. What was the nature of this intoxication? 
Taste for vengeance ; natural pleasure ; destruction in 
literary intoxication ; recollections from reading.' 

In 1852 he contributed two poems, ' Crepuscule du 
Matin ' and 'Crepuscule du Soir,' to a paper called Semaine 
Theatrale. This paper was very short-lived, and after 
its failure he tried to found another, but with equal 
unsuccess. Already he was becoming less productive ; 

1 Cp. Note to Reniement de Saint-Pierre, where he lays it down that the 
poet has an absolute right, that it is his duty, even ' as an actor does, to fashion 
his mind to fit every sophism, every corruption.' 


between 1853 and 1855 he only published his * Morale 
du joujou,' and ' L'Essence du Rire.' In 1857 Baudelaire 
published through Poulet Malassis the first edition of 
his Fleurs du Mai. Some of the poems had already 
appeared; in 1846 L? Artiste had given ' L'Impenitent ' 
(Don Juan aux Enfers) and ( A une Indienne' (A une 
Malabaraise), and in 1855 the Revue des Deux Mondes 
published eighteen poems : 'Au Lecteur,' * Reversibilite,' 
* Le Tonneau de la Haine,' i Confession,' ' L'Aube 
Spirituelle,' * La Volupte,' ' Voyage a Cy there,' 'A la 
Belle aux cheveux d'or' (L'Irreparable), ' L'Invitation au 
Voyage,' ' Moestaeterrabunda,' ' La Cloche,' ' L'Ennemi,' 
( La Vie anterieure,' * Le Spleen,' ' Remords posthume,' 
'LeGuignon,' 'La Beatrice,' * L'Amour et le Crane.' 1 
The year 1855 was a productive one with Baudelaire ; 
besides these poems he had published in Le Pays a 
series of critical articles on art, methods of criticism, 
the modern idea of progress applied to art, and the 
displacement of vitality. 

The Fleurs du Mai created at once a great sensation, 
and also a certain amount of scandal. Baudelaire was 
prosecuted on the ground of offence to public morality, 
and his publishers were fined. 

It was about this time that Madame Sabatier came 
definitely into his life. The episode is singularly char- 
acteristic of the man. Here was a woman, beautiful, 
gifted, and sympathetic, and who practically offered 
herself to him. It was the fall of the idol. Baudelaire 
begins to analyse and to doubt. He writes to her : 

1 Then, too, I told you yesterday you will forget me, you will betray 
me ; he who now amuses you will tire you. And to-day I add this, 
he only will suffer who is fool enough to take seriously the things of 
the soul. You see, ma belle cherie, I have odious prejudices against 
women. In short, I have no faith. You have a beautiful soul, but 
after all it is a feminine soul. . . . And then, and then, a few days 

1 List quoted by M. Crepet : Charles Baudelaire. 


ago you were a divinity, which is so agreeable, so fine, so inviolable. 
Now you are a woman. And if to my cost, I were to acquire the 
right of being jealous ! How horrible even to think of ! But with 
one such as you with eyes full of smiles and graciousness for every 
one, it must be martyrdom ! . . .' 

As Baudelaire says, he had no faith here as in all 
things yet the first thing a woman demands is trust. 
Madame Sabatier replied : * Shall I tell you what I think, 
a cruel thought that hurts me very much ? That you do 
not love me ! ' 

In a later letter it is she who confesses her jealousy 
of Jeanne Duval ; yet at the end of the letter she can 
write in this vein : 

* Good morning, my Charles ; how is what remains to you of a 
heart ? Mine is quieter. I reason strongly with it so as not to tire 
you too much with its weaknesses. You will see ! I shall be able to 
force it to descend to the temperature you have dreamed of. It is 
very certain I shall suffer, but to please you I will resign myself to 
bear all possible sufferings.' 

And the astonishing thing is that they settled down 
into a quiet and lasting friendship. Baudelaire continued 
to visit Mme. Sabatier up to his departure for Brussels ; 
and in his tragic last months she was constantly with 

A few days after his prosecution Baudelaire published 
some prose pieces in Le Present : ' Crepuscule du Soir,' 
1 Solitude,' <Les Projets,' 'L'Horloge,' < L'Invitation au 
Voyage.' In the latter part of the same year he published, 
in the same paper, his ( Quelques caricaturistes fran9ais,' 
and * Quelques caricaturistes etrangers,' and in L? Artiste 
his article on Gustave Flaubert. 

In 1858 appeared his translation of the adventures of 
Arthur Gordon Pym, and the first part of the Paradis 
artificiels, and in 1859 his article on Theophile Gautier. 

Long before this, Baudelaire had been in considerable 


financial straits and had found himself obliged to borrow 
money from his friend Poulet Malassis. At this moment 
Poulet Malassis' own affairs were in such a bad way that 
he seemed on the verge of bankruptcy, and Baudelaire, in 
search of new ways to make money, busied himself with 
plans for writing a drama. He was in the habit of re- 
citing his poems at various gatherings, and a favourite 
piece was ' Le Vin de PAssassin.' The actor Tisserand, 
on hearing it, suggested to Baudelaire that it might be 
worked up into a drama. Here is the plan as Baudelaire 
describes it in a letter to Tisserand : 

' Ma principale preoccupation quand je commengais a rever a 
mon sujet, fut : a quelle classe, a quelle profession doit appartenir le 
personnage principal de la piece? J'ai decidement adopte une pro- 
fession lourde, triviale, rude: le scieur de long. Ce qui m'y a 
presque force, c'est que, j'ai une chanson dont 1'air est horriblement 
melancolique et qui ferait je crois un magnifique effet au theatre, si 
nous mettons sur la scene le lieu ordinaire du travail, ou surtout si, 
comme j'en ai envie, je developpe au troisieme acte le tableau d'une 
goguette lyrique ou d'une lice chansonniere. Cette chanson est 
d'une rudesse singuliere. Elle commence par : 

Rien n'est aussi-z-aimable 
Fanforu crancru lou la lahira 
Rien n'est aussi-z-aimable 
Que le scieur de long. 

Mon homme est reveur faineant ; il a ou il croit avoir des aspira- 
tions superieures a son monotone metier et, comme tous les reveurs 
faineants il s'enivre. 

Les deux premiers actes sont remplis par des scenes de misere, 
de chomage, de querelles de menage, d'ivrognerie et de jalousie. 
Vous verrez tout a 1'heure 1'utilite de cet element nouveau. 

Le 3 e . acte, la goguette ou sa femme de qui il vit separe, 
inquiete de lui, vient le chercher. C'est Ik qu'il lui arrache un 
rendez-vous pour le lendemain soir dimanche. 

Le 4 e . acte le crime, bien preme'dite, bien precongu. Quant a 
1'execution je vous la raconterai avec soin. 

Le 5 e . acte (dans une autre ville), le denoument, c'est-a-dire la 


denonciation du coupable par lui-meme, sous la pression d'une 
obsession. Comment trouvez-vous cela? Vous voyez comme le 
drame est simple. Pas d'imbroglios, pas de surprises simple- 
ment, le developpement d'un vice et des resultats successifs d'une 

Later, Zola worked out the same idea in his long novel 
L'Assommoir. It is interesting to remark in passing that 
in dramatic form this work is no more successful than 
in the plans of Baudelaire. 1 

Further on in his letter Baudelaire describes in detail the 
crime which his hero is led to commit. It is almost 
identically the same as that of Petrus Borel's ' Passereau 
1'Ecolier ' ; we will therefore not quote in detail here, but 
return to it when we come to study Borel. 

Baudelaire's drama was never written ; he had not the 
essential dramatic gifts and recognised the fact. 

In 1 86 1 appeared the second edition of the Fleurs du 
Mai, and the article on ' Richard Wagner et Tannhauser.' 
It is another tribute to Baudelaire's penetration that he 
appreciated the genius of the German master at a time 
when Wagner's music was the laughing-stock of Europe. 

It was in this year, too, that he decided to present him- 
self as a candidate for the Academy. As was only to 
be supposed, this candidature led to violent opposition, 
and in the end Baudelaire avoided inevitable defeat by 

And now that Paris which he had observed with such 
enthusiasm began to tire him, and then to disgust him, 
and his financial outlook became more and more gloomy. 
Finally, in 1864, Baudelaire left Paris to settle definitely 
in Brussels. 

He believed that he would be able to make money in 
Belgium, firstly by his writings, and secondly by giving 
lectures a dream that he never realised. His letters 

1 UAssommoir drame en cinq actes et neuf tableaux. W. Busnach and 
O. Gastineau, Paris, 1881. 


written from Belgium make sad reading ; he only leaves 
off his tirades against the Belgians to complain of his 
poverty. He was never able to make money in twenty- 
six years he made less than sixteen thousand francs or, 
as M. Catulle Mendes worked it out, about one franc 
seventy a day ! 

The Belgians were always entirely uncongenial to him ; 
he soon conceived a violent hatred for them. He writes 
to Manet in 1864 : 

1 The Belgians are fools, liars, and thieves. I have been the 
victim of the most impudent fraud. Here deception is the rule, and 
is no dishonour. . . . Never believe what you are told about 
Belgian good humour. Cunning, distrust, false affability, rudeness, 
knavery yes ! ' 

We can easily see, since such were his views, how 
Baudelaire was condemned to loneliness in Belgium : 

1 As for conversation, the great, the only pleasure for an intel- 
lectual being, you may scour Belgium in every direction without 
discovering a soul who speaks. Many people flocked with idiotic 
curiosity around the author of the Fleurs du Mai The author of 
the Flowers in question could not be other than an eccentric 
monster. All these blackguards took me for a monster, and when 
they saw that I was cold, moderate, and polite, that I had a horror 
of free-thinkers, progress, and all modern foolishness they decreed 
(I suppose) that I was not the author of my book. What a comic 
confusion between the author and the subject ! This unhappy book 
(of which I am very proud) is then very obscure, very unintelligible ! 
I shall long bear the punishment for having dared to paint evil with 
some talent ! ' 

In his irritation Baudelaire falls back on his favourite 
mystifying pose : 

1 However, I must confess that for two or three months I have 
been giving rein to my character, and taking a peculiar pleasure in 
hurting people's feelings, in showing myself impertinent a talent in 
which I excel, when I want to. But here that is not enough, you 
must be coarse to be understood! What a set of blackguards ! I 


who used to think France an absolutely barbaric country am forced 
to admit that there exists a country even more barbarous than 

Later on he writes to Mme. Paul Meurice : 

' I have been taken here for a police-inspector (that 's good), 
thanks to that good article I wrote on the Shakespeare banquet ; 
. . . then for a proof corrector sent from Paris to correct infamous 
works. Exasperated at always being believed, I spread the report 
that I had killed my father, and that I had eaten him, and that if I 
had been allowed to escape from France it was only on account 
of the services I had rendered to the French police, and I was 
BELIEVED ! I am as at home in dishonour as a fish in water ! ' 

Finally, his impatience turns to sadness, and he wants 
to be alone. ' I am wearied and suffer martyrdom. I 
have withdrawn from all society. I much prefer complete 
solitude to brutal, stupid and ignorant companionship.' 

The only compensation Baudelaire found for living in 
Belgium lay in the friendship of Felicien Rops : * the 
only true artist (in the sense in which I, and perhaps I 
alone, understand the word artist) that I have found in 

He also speaks with admiration of the town of Mechelin. 
He tells us that if it had not been a Belgian town with 
a Flemish population he would have liked to live, and, 
above all, to die there. It appealed to him in just the 
same way as Bruges to Rodenbach ; these words of 
Baudelaire might well have come from the pen of the later 
writer : 

* So many belfries, so many steeples, so much grass growing in 
the streets, and so many nuns ! I discovered a marvellous Jesuit 
church that no one visits. In a word, I was so happy that I was 
able to forget the present, and I bought there some pieces of 
old delft.' 

He characteristically adds that these were of course 
much dearer than they ought to have been, and once 


more explodes into wrath : ' The whole race has become 
brutalised ; the past alone is interesting.' 

During the years Baudelaire passed in Belgium he 
finished his translation of Edgar Poe, and made great 
plans for a book on Belgium ; this last was never finished. 
The reason was not indolence, the poet's health had 
begun to fail. The letters of the latter part of the year 1865 
have frequent references to his ill-health, to the doctors' 
advice to give up stimulants, and to avoid worry and 
mental fatigue, and to his own inability to pay for the 
necessary remedies. 

In 1866 he began to make plans for returning to Paris, 
but the journey was continually postponed. It was in 
March of this year that the crisis came. The father-in- 
law of Felicien Rops invited Baudelaire to Namur, an 
invitation which the latter gladly accepted, delighting in 
an opportunity of revisiting the old church of Saint-Loup. 
It was while he was making a tour of this church that he 
was suddenly seized with giddiness and fell. He recovered 
himself for the moment, but the next day it was clear that 
he was suffering from some mental trouble aphasia and 
paralysis set in he was taken back to Brussels and 
installed in a sanatorium there, but it was the beginning 
of the end. His mother came to Brussels to nurse her 
son, and found that he needed tending, to use her own 
words, 'as quite a little child.' In the beginning of July 
1866 she and Alfred Stevens brought back to Paris a 
Baudelaire who was less than the ghost of his former self. 
Baudelaire in his last years is one of the most tragic 
figures in all literary history. Deprived of memory, 
wasted and changed to the extent of being unable to 
recognise himself in a mirror, for him, who had boasted 
that the inexpressible did not exist, who was in truth a 
' lord of language,' now unable to express his simplest 
thoughts, for him indeed death could only bring consola- 
tion in releasing him from his suffering in September 1867. 


Before passing on to consider the philosophy of 
Baudelaire's work we would point out that this philosophy 
is the outcome of three elements his nature, his education, 
and his age. 

By nature Baudelaire is above all the man of sensation. 
Unhappily we have no medical documents here. At that 
time no one studied a writer from this point of view as 
has been done since (for example, Dr. Toudouze's study 
of Emile Zola). But perhaps after all his poems are as 
weighty documents as a doctor's diagnosis. And these 
reveal an excessively, even unhealthily, sensitive nature. 

We have also the testimony of his contemporaries and 
critics who tell us that Baudelaire's nerves were extra- 
ordinarily acute, and that his faculty of smell was 
developed to the highest point. Some of his most 
famous lines are written on the subject of perfumes : 

* II est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants, 
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies, 
Et d'autres corrompus, riches et triomphants, 
Ayant 1'expansion des choses infinies, 
Comme 1'ambre, le muse, le benjoin et 1'encens, 
Qui chantent les transports de 1'esprit et des sens.' 

and these : 

' II est de forts parfums pour qui toute matiere 
Est poreuse. On dirait qu'ils penetrent le verre. 
En ouvrant un coffret venu de 1'orient 
Dont la serrure grince et rechigne en criant, 
Ou dans une maison deserte quelque armoire 
Pleine de Pacre odeur des temps, poudreuse et noire, 
Parfois on trouve un vieux flacon qui se souvient 
D'ou jaillit toute vive une ame qui revient.' 

It is the desire for sensation again that leads him to 
take refuge in what he himself describes as the paradis 
artificiels of opium. 

Those who seek in Baudelaire's pages supernatural 
visions such as those of De Quincey or of Poe will be dis- 


appointed. The paradis artificiels contain little beside 
the account of De Quincey's experience and life. 

He does, indeed, describe his own experiences of 
hashish, telling us how 

* colours will take on an unusual energy and enter into the brain 
with victorious intensity. The paintings on ceilings, whether they 
be delicate, mediocre, or even bad, will be clothed with fearful life ; 
the most crudely painted papers on a hotel wall will hollow them- 
selves into magnificent dioramas. Nymphs with dazzling flesh look 
at you with their great eyes that are more profound than sky or 
water ; the characters of antiquity, muffled up in their sacerdotal or 
military garb, by means of a simple look exchange the most solemn 
confidences with you. In the meanwhile, there develops that 
mysterious and temporary state of mind wherein the profoundness 
of life, studded with its countless difficulties, is revealed in the 
spectacle, be it never so trivial, one has before one's eyes : in which 
the nearest object becomes a speaking symbol. Fourier and 
Swedenborg, the former with his analogies, the latter with his corre- 
spondances incarnated themselves in the vegetable and animal which 
meets your eyes, and instead of teaching by the voice they inculcate 
their doctrine by means of form and colour. . . . Hashish then 
spreads itself over the whole of life like a magic varnish, painting it 
in solemn colours and lighting up all its depths.' 

Or as he expressed it in one of his poems : 

' L'opium agrandit ce qui n'a pas de bornes, 

Allonge 1'illimite, 
Approfondit le temps, creuse la volupte, 

Et de plaisirs noirs et mornes 
Remplit Tame au delk de sa capacite.' 

Secondly, by nature Baudelaire is the Parisian sceptic 
with Catholic upbringing, and the contest between these 
two contrasted lines of tendency forms one of the salient 
features of his work. The best proof of this is the feeling, 
not of indifference, but of disgust produced in any 
Calvinistic mind whenever the name of Baudelaire is 
pronounced. Such see in him an agent of Satan escaped 
from a modern Babylon. They do not understand him, 


and yet were they but acquainted with his theory of 
original sin, would they not judge otherwise ? 

There is no theory more dear to Baudelaire's heart than 
that of original sin. In a letter to Toussenel he wrote : 

* Speaking of original sin, I have often thought harmful, loath- 
some animals are perhaps nothing other than the vivification, 
embodiment, and dawning into material life of man's evil thoughts. 
In this way the whole of nature participates in original sin.' 

And in his Art Romantique (jfrloge du Maquillage) we 
read : 

f Review, analyse all that is natural, you will find nothing that 
is not horrible. Everything fine and noble is the product of 
reason and calculation. Crime, for which the human animal 
acquired a taste in his mother's womb, is originally natural.' 

Everywhere his eyes were met by the ' tedious spectacle 
of immortal sin. ' He believed firmly in the natural impulse 
which leads to actions well known by the perpetrator to 
be wrong, and therefore fascinating. The prose poem 
Le Mauvais Vitrier is a good example of Baudelaire's 
treatment of the theme of the Imp of the Perverse. In 
this way, too, woman, who is far more a creature of 
natural impulse than of reason, calls down all the wrath 
of Baudelaire, who calls her 'natural, that is to say, 

At the same time, the idea of the Virgin is ever present, 
bringing with her the atmosphere of the ideal world. 

* Elle se rdpand dans ma vie 
Comme un air parfume de sel, 
Et dans mon ame inassouvie 
Verse le gout de l'ternel. J 

And nature takes on the aspect of the Catholic cere- 
monial : 

' chaque fleur s'evapore ainsi qu'un encensoir,' 

' le ciel est triste et beau comme un grand reposoir ! ' 


Then there is the contrasting mood the mood of 
libertinage, where he shows himself preoccupied with the 
questions of the flesh. As La Bruyere has said : ' Les 
devots ne connaissent de crimes que 1'incontinence.' And 
Baudelaire painted vice, with its attraction (in accordance 
with his theory), but also, since he knew that 

* The Gods are just and of our pleasant vices 
Make instruments to plague us ' 

with its consequences, even as he described the after-effects 
of opium. 

And withal the analyst in him is ever on the alert ; his 
highest ecstasy never destroys the analysing faculty. 
We have already seen, in the Madame Sabatier episode, 
how the truth of that wise remark ' our doubts are 
traitors ' applies to Baudelaire, and in his poems we find 
fresh proofs of the fact that the analysing spirit in 
Baudelaire is, by its very power, his worst enemy. 

He furnishes a proof of that passage of Guy de 
Maupassant, who says : 

1 A simple feeling no longer exists in the man of letters. Every- 
thing he sees, his joys, pleasures, sufferings, and despair, all become 
instantly subjects for observation. In spite of everything, in spite 
of himself, he is for ever analysing hearts, faces, gestures, voice 
intonations. ... He lives under the sentence of being a continual 
reflection of himself and others, under the sentence of watching 
himself feel, act, love, think, or suffer, and of never suffering, 
thinking, loving, feeling like any one else honestly, frankly, simply, 
without self-analysis after every joy or every sob.' 

We have already mentioned Baudelaire's tireless 
curiosity, his resolution to miss nothing of what Paris 
could offer to his observation. 

' J'etais comme 1'enfant avide du spectacle, 
Ha'issant le rideau comme on hait un obstacle.' 


And this curiosity gave him no peace forced him, as it 
were, to further observation. As he himself says, 

* La curiosite nous tourmente et nous roule, 
Comme un Ange cruel qui fouette des soleils.' 

The Tableaux Parisiens are the fruit of this curiosity. 
In his poems in prose he describes the power of this 
feeling in him : 

1 Once I happened to follow for hours a poor old woman who was 
in trouble. . . . She was evidently forced by her absolute solitude 
to habits like those of an old bachelor, and the masculine character 
of her ways lent a mysterious piquancy to their austerity. I know 
not in what miserable cafe she had breakfasted, nor how. I followed 
her to the reading-room, and I watched her for a long time while 
she sought among the papers with eager eyes, once tear-scalded, 
news of some great personal interest. In the end in the afternoon, 
under a charming autumn sky, one of those skies from which a 
host of recollections and regrets descend, she sat in a garden, far 
from the crowd, to listen to one of those concerts with which 
regimental music charms Parisian people. 

c Doubtless this is the little debauch of that innocent (or purified) 
old woman, this is her well-earned consolation for one of those 
tedious days without a friend, without a pleasant talk, without a 
confidant, that God allows to fall to her lot perhaps for years 
now three hundred and sixty-five times a year.' 

This is the < Petites Vieilles ' of the Fleurs du Mai 
that poem into which (Baudelairian though it be) passes 
a note of Villon : 

* Dans les plis sinueux des vieilles capitales, 
Ou tout, meme Phorreur, tourne aux enchantements, 
Je guette, obeissant a mes humeurs fatales, 
Des etres singuliers, decrepits et charmants. 
Ces monstres disloques furent jadis des femmes, 
Eponine ou Lais ! Monstres brises, bossus 
Ou tordus, aimons-les ! Ce sont encor des ames. 

Ah ! que j'en ai suivi, de ces petites vieilles ! 
Une entre autres, a 1'heure ou le soleil tombant 
Ensanglante le ciel de blessures vermeilles, 
Pensive s'asseyait a 1'ecart sur un bane, 


Pour entendre un de ces concerts, riches de cuivre, 
Dont les soldats parfois inondent nos jardins, 
Et qui, dans ces soirs d'or ou Ton se sent revivre, 
Versent quelque hero'isme au coeur des citadins. . . . 

Telles vous cheminez, stoiques et sans plaintes, 
A travers le chaos des vivantes cites, 
Meres au coeur saignant, courtisanes ou saintes, 
Dont autrefois les noms par tous etaient cites. 

Vous qui futes la grace ou qui futes la gloire, 
Nul ne vous reconnait ! un ivrogne incivil 
Vous insulte en passant d'un amour derisoire ; 
Sur vos talons gambade un enfant lache et vil. 

Honteuses d'exister, ombres ratatinees, 
Peureuses, le dos bas, vous cotoyez les murs ; 
Et nul ne vous salue, etranges destinees ! 
Debris d'humanite pour Peternite murs ! ' 

And of the same class is the poem ' Les Aveugles ' ; the 
eyes of the Blind 

' restent leves 

Au ciel ; on ne les voit jamais vers les paves 
Pencher reveusement leur tete appesantie. 

II traversent ainsi le noir illimite, 

Ce frere du silence eternel. O cite ! 

Pendant qu'autour de nous tu chantes, ris, et beugles, 

Eprise du plaisir jusqu'a 1'atrocite, 

Vois, je me traine aussi ! mais plus qu'eux hebete', 

Je dis : Que cherchent-ils au Ciel, tous ces aveugles ? ' 

But together with the analyst a kind of stoic appears. 
Baudelaire never spoke of himself we have the testimony 
of his contemporaries for that; it would have been against 
his principles to let his sufferings be seen. As he says in 
' Le Dandy ' : 

' The character of the dandy's beauty lies above all in that cold 
bearing which comes from a steadfast determination not to be moved ; 
it is like a latent fire which suggests its presence, and which could 
glow, but will not' 


It is this attitude which explains Baudelaire's develop- 
ment of the ' art-for-art ' theory, to add to it that detached 
1 aristocratic ' element. 

First of all, then, he lays down the ' art-for-art ' theory, 
rigorously banishing any idea of didacticism : 

' The more art would aim at being philosophically clear, the more 
will it degrade itself and return to the childish hieroglyphic ; on the 
other hand, the more art detaches itself from teaching, the nearer 
will it attain to pure disinterested beauty. 

' A great many people believe that the aim of poetry is some kind 
of teaching, that poetry should at one moment fortify conscience, 
at another perfect morals, or at any rate prove something useful. . . . 
Poetry has no other aim than Herself ; can have no other ; and no 
poetry will be so great, noble, and truly worthy of the name of 
poem as that written for the mere pleasure of writing a poem. Let 
me be well understood. I do not mean to say that poetry cannot 
ennoble morals : that its final result may not be to raise man above 
the level of vulgar interests : that would be evidently absurd. I do 
say that if the poet has pursued some moral aim, it is no imprudence 
to predict that his work will be bad. 

' Poetry, under pain of death or decay, cannot assimilate herself to 
science or ethics; she has not Truth for object, she has only Herself.' 

Later on in his article on Charles Dupont he exclaims : 
' Didacticism in poetry is a great sign of laziness,' and 
he continues : 

' It is at once by and through poetry, by and through music, that 
the soul catches a glimpse of the splendours situated behind the 
tomb, and when an exquisite poet brings tears to the eyes, these 
tears are not the sign of excessive delight, they are far rather the 
mark of an excited melancholy, of a postulation of the nerves, a 
nature exiled in imperfection, and which longs to gain immediate 
possession, on this very earth, of the revealed paradise. 

'Thus, the principle of poetry is strictly and simply human 
aspiration towards a superior Beauty, and the manifestation of this 
principle lies in an enthusiasm, an uplifting of the soul ; enthusiasm 
which is quite independent of passion, which is the intoxication of 
the heart, and of truth which is the pasturage of reason. For 
passion is a natural thing, too natural even not to introduce a harsh, 


discordant note into the domain of pure Beauty ; too familiar and 
too violent not to scandalise the pure Desires, gracious Melancholy, 
and noble Despair, which dwell in the supernatural realms of Poetry.' 

Sainte-Beuve criticised this attitude in a letter to 
Baudelaire where he writes : 

' Let me give you a piece of advice which would be very 
surprising to those who do not know you. You are too afraid 
of passion it is a theory with you. You make too much con- 
cession to management. Let yourself alone, do not fear to feel 
as others feel, never be afraid to be too ordinary. 7 

It is sound advice. When Baudelaire expressed his 
admiration for * the great spirits who spurn reality,' 
what he despised was not so much reality as the 
commonplace, and it was this that led to his excessive 
love of artifice. 

Yet Baudelaire did perceive the danger lurking in the 
' art-for-art ' theory, even though it was only in passing 
humour that he wrote : 

' Immoderate taste for form leads to monstrous, unknown dis- 
orders. . . . The frenzied passion of art is a canker which devours 
all else, and the frank absence of the just and true in art comes to 
the same as the absence of art, the whole man vanishes ; the special- 
isation of one faculty leads to nothingness. . I understand the fury of 
iconoclast and mussulman against images. I realise the remorse of 
Saint Augustine for excessive joy of the eye. The danger is so 
great that I excuse the suppression of the object.' 

The knowledge of the danger saddens him ; he sees 
* irresistible night establishing her empire,' after the 
romantic sunset, and he adds : 

' Literature must go to recruit its forces in a better atmosphere. 
The time is not far off when it will be understood that all literature 
which refuses to walk fraternally between science and philosophy 
is a homicidal, suicidal, literature.' 

Baudelaire's ideal beauty is not simple, but rather that 
in which some mystery and some sadness is incorporated. 


'J'ai trouve la definition du Beau, de mon Beau,' he 
writes in his Fusees : 

' It is something fervent but sad, something rather vague, leaving 
room for conjecture. If you permit, I will apply my ideas to a 
sensible object, for example, to that most interesting object in 
society, a woman's face. A seductive, beautiful head, a woman's 
head I mean, is a head that gives rise, in some confused way, to 
dreams at once voluptuous and sad; it brings with it a hint of 
melancholy, of lassitude, of satiety even or else the contrary idea, 
that is to say, an ardour, a desire of life associated with a bitterness 
like the ebb-tide from privation or hopelessness. Mystery, regret, 
are also characteristics of the Beautiful. ... I do not mean to say 
that Joy cannot associate with Beauty, but I do say that Joy is one 
of her most vulgar ornaments. While Melancholy is, so to speak, 
her noble companion, and so much so that I can scarcely conceive 
of a type of Beauty where there is not some Unhappiness.' 

He expressed the same idea in the famous ' Madrigal 

Triste ' : 

* Que m'importe que tu sois sage ? 
Sois belle ! et sois triste ! les pleurs 
Ajoutent un char me au visage, 
Comme le fleuve au paysage ; 
L'orage rajeunit les fleurs. 

Je t'aime surtout quand la joie 
S'enfuit de ton front terrasse ; 
Quand ton cceur dans 1'horreur se noie ; 
Quand sur ton present se deploie 
Le nuage affreux du passeV 

An almost inseparable attribute of this beauty is 
Horror : 

' Tu marches sur des morts, Beaute, dont tu te moques, 
De tes bijoux 1'Horreur n'est pas le moins charmant, 
Et le Meurtre, parmi tes plus chers breloques, 
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement' 

and again : 

* Ce qu'il faut k ce cceur profond comme un abime, 
C'est vous, Lady Macbeth, ame puissante au crime, 
Reve d'Eschyle e'clos au climat des antans. 


Ou bien toi, grande Nuit, fille de Michel-Ange, 
Qui tors paisiblement dans une pose etrange 
Tes appas fagonnes aux bouches des Titans.' 

This taste has its foundation in that desire to astonish 
or to mystify, which is one of the ruling traits of Baude- 
laire's character. It is, however, a feature common to so 
many of the young romantics that it cannot be called 
exclusively Baudelairian. It was the same desire to 
epater le bourgeois which made Theophile Gautier bring 
out his famous Gilet rouge, which led Petrus Borel to 
adopt his startling costume, and produced such startling 
names as Philothee O'Neddy, or a host of other pleasant 

Certainly Baudelaire carried the taste for mystification 
somewhat far, as when he ordered a certain blue coat, and 
then when that was finished ordered a dozen like it 'just 
to astonish the tailor.' It was the same impulse that led 
him to tell astounding stories about himself merely to 
shock his hearers. In his Salon of 1859, he said : 

* The desire to astonish and to be astonished is a very legitimate 
one. The whole question is to know by what means you wish to 
create or feel astonishment. Because the Beautiful is always 
astonishing it would be absurd to suppose that what is astonishing 
is always beautiful. Now, our public which is singularly powerless 
to feel the happiness of reverie or admiration (sign of small minds) 
wants to be astonished by means foreign to art, and artists obediently 
conform to its taste ; they seek to strike it, surprise it, stupefy it 
by unworthy stratagems, because they know it incapable of feeling 
ecstasy before the natural tactics of true art.' 

Just so. And Baudelaire in his desire to epater le 
bourgeois went too far, and we rather sympathise with 
the remark of that man who, seeing Baudelaire making 
his way homeward one night, observed to his companion, 
* There goes Baudelaire ; I '11 wager he 's going to bed 
to-night under the bed instead of in it just to astonish 


Let us then pass on now having studied the charac- 
teristics of which Baudelairian philosophy is the outcome 
to consider the philosophy itself. 

Professional philosophers are unwilling to admit that a 
poet may be a philosopher. A man who does not make 
use of the approved scholastic dialectic methods appears 
to them little else than a heretic entering the holy of 

Let us acknowledge at once that Baudelaire never posed 
as a philosopher. He put the best of himself into his 
poems in prose or verse, and the two collections of his 
reflections Fusees and Mon Cceur mis a nu cannot be 
compared to that profound Journal of Alfred de Vigny. 

But if, as Nietzsche has it, the philosopher is he who 
gives a new meaning to the universe, Baudelaire has 
certainly a claim to be accounted a philosopher. 

For Nietzsche, as M. Lichtenberger x points out, nothing 
in Nature is of worth in itself: the world of reality is only 
indifferent matter which has no interest apart from that 
which we ourselves lend it. In this way the true philoso- 
pher is that man whose personality is strong enough to 
create a world which interests mankind. Now, has not 
Baudelaire created just that a world which interests 
mankind a world which is disconcerting, mysterious and 
sorrowful, a world in which an intellectual epicureanism 
combines with true stoicism and catholic mysticism, a 
world in which so many souls have lived, a world which 
would seem the living triumph of will. 

From this point of view Baudelaire seems to be the 
hero that Nietzsche 2 called for, he who brings new 

1 La philosophic de Nietzsche. 

2 After this book was finished our attention was called to an article on 
Baudelaire in the Nineteenth Century (March 1911) by M. Andr Beaunier. 
We cannot do better than refer our readers to this delightfully written study. 
M. Beaunier seems to have arrived at the same conclusion as ourselves when he 
says, unfortunately only en passant : ' Faire sa volupte de son tourment, il y a 


passions, new desires, and puts new value into everything. 
We will go further. 

Baudelaire's ideas looked at in the light of Nietzsche's 
philosophy take on a singular refulgence, and, under the 
rays of the German thinker's ideas, reflect such curious 
lights that we will venture to compare the two writers. 

A certain resemblance is at once perceptible between 
Nietzsche's philosophy, which makes ceaseless effort to 
raise oneself above oneself the great task imposed on the 
will, and Baudelairism, which is founded above all on the 
will being always strained to despise feelings which are 
the outcome of pure nature. 

No poetry is more conscious than that of Baudelaire, 
and this is an important point since critics have portrayed 
Baudelaire as a kind of opium-eater incapable of self- 
command. In his Preface to the translation of Poe's 
* Raven ' he wrote : 

' Poetics, we are told, are made and modelled in accordance with 
poems. Here is a poet who maintains that his poem has been 
composed in accordance with his theory of poetics. Certainly he 
had great genius and more inspiration than any one else, if by 
inspiration is understood energy, intellectual enthusiasm, and the 
power of keeping the faculties awake. But he also loved work more 
than others ; he liked to repeat, he who was so perfectly original, 
that originality was a matter of apprenticeship, which does not mean 
that it is something transmitted by teaching. Chance and the in- 
comprehensible were his two great enemies. Did he, by some 
strange amusing vanity, make himself out less inspired than he was 
naturally? Did he dimmish the gratuitous faculty which was in 
him to show the part of will the finer ? I should be rather inclined 
to believe it ; though at the same time it must not be forgotten that 
his genius, ardent, active as it was, had a passionate love of analysis, 
intrigue and calculation. One of his favourite axioms was this : 
" Everything in a poem, just as in a novel, should tend towards the 
denouement. A good author has already got his last line in his 
head when he writes his first." Thanks to this admirable method, 
the composer can begin his work at the end and work when he likes 


at any part of it. Amateurs of delirium will perhaps be revolted by 
these cynical maxims : but each can take as much of them as he 
will. It will always be good to show them what advantages art can 
draw from deliberation, and to make men of the world see how 
much toil is exacted by that luxury called poetry.' 

He had already touched on this subject in his Salon 
of 1859, where he says : 

'There is no chance in art, any more than in mechanics. A 
happy discovery is simply the consequence of a good piece of 
reasoning with the intermediate deductions passed over, just as a 
mistake is the result of false reasoning.' 

And as regards the inspiration of opium, he has finely 
said : 

' But man is not so cut off from honest means of gaining heaven 
to need to invoke pharmacy and sorcery, he has no need to sell his 
soul to pay for intoxicating caresses and the friendship of houris. 
What is that paradise bought at the price of eternal salvation ? ' 

But the important point to remark is that the Nietzschean 
morality, just as the art of Baudelaire, rests above all 
upon sensation. For Nietzsche sensation is the ' scales, 
the weights and the weigher,' that is everything. 

As M. Jules de Gaultier well puts it : 

' The being (that is the being in itself) only reveals itself partially 
to consciousness, it remains mysterious in its origin and in its end. 
The part of itself it allows to be realised is revealed in sensation. 
Sensation, as regards consciousness, is the penumbra out of which 
rises the external world.' 

Doubtless, if Baudelaire had been asked what was 
sensation he would have expressed himself somewhat 
differently, and in less scholastic terms. But would he 
not also have declared that, in his eyes, sensation was all- 
important, that we must continually subtilise those we 
experience, or better still, create new ones, marking mean- 
while the delicate connections between those of hearing, 
sight, and smell? 


No poet before Baudelaire had brought so many new 
sensations into literary style. 

In the classical ages the mind hides as much as possible 
from the commerce of the senses, sensation in the intellect's 
crucible becomes abstract sentiment. But in Baudelaire, 
on the contrary, sensation passes through his mind to 
settle, all quivering on the page before him, like a butter- 
fly which the writer has surprised as it flew, and through 
whose frail body he hesitates in his happiness to drive 
a pin. 

And in this way Baudelaire was really the first of the 
impressionists. 1 Herein, too, he was merely following 
his nature, for he seems to have been a wonderful 
receptacle for sensation. Think how he speaks of 
perfumes, dividing them into three classes according as 
they call up different ideas, sensations, or recollections. 

And his interest in drinks and poisons, what is it if not 
the very instinct of the ' man of sensation ' in pursuit of 
what he has not yet felt? Sensation is of capital import- 
ance, since it brings an escape from the oppressiveness 
of reality. 

1 One must ever be drunken. Everything is in that ; it is the 
only question. In order not to feel the horrible burden of Time 
that is breaking your shoulders, bending you earthwards, you must 
be ceaselessly drunken. 

' But with what ? With wine, poetry, or virtue, as you will only 
intoxicate yourself; and if sometimes, on the steps of a palace, or 
the green sward of a grave, or in the mournful solitude of your 
room you wake to find the intoxication diminished or vanished, 
ask of the wind, or the wave, or the star, or the bird, or the clock, 
or all that flies, all that groans, all that rolls on, all that sings, all 
that speaks, ask what time it is ; and the wind, wave, star, bird and 
clock will tell you : " It is time to be drunken." Lest you should 
be the martyred slaves of Time, be ceaselessly drunken ! With 
wine, poetry or virtue, as you will.' 

1 We shall return to this point when we come to study the Baudelairian spirit 
in Painting. 


And whence comes the magic of his verse if not from 
this pursuit of the inexpressible? He penetrates into 
sensation to the utmost limit, then, as Barbey d'Aurevilly 
says, hurls himself against that mysterious gate of the 
Infinite which he cannot open, and in his rage turns on 
language and exhausts his fury there. 

And let us acknowledge that out of this he produced 
wonderful effects, was able to present objects to us, to 
express feelings which till then defied description. 

Can we ever forget that marvellous sonnet, perhaps the 
most profound ever written, * Correspondances ' : 

' La Nature est un temple cm de vivants piliers 
Laissent parfois sortir de confuses paroles ; 
L'homme y passe a travers des forets de symboles 
Qui 1'observent avec des regards familiers. 
Comme de longs echos qui de loin se confondent 
Dans une tenebreuse et profonde unite, 
Vaste comme la nuit et comme la clarte*, 
Les parfums, les couleurs et les sons se repondent . . .' etc. 

What sonnet, or rather what thought, was ever more 
fertile in consequences? When could philosophy boast 
of having renewed the inspiration of prosody and paint- 
ing as this theory has done ? 

Do not our modern painters make use of a musical 
terminology ? And is not one of their cherished ideas 
that of having made progress like that of the symphonic 
orchestra : * enriching itself, embroidering itself, cease- 
lessly complicating itself at the expense of precise out- 
line.' 1 

Looking at the canvas of one or other of the modern 
painters there is one word which rises irresistibly to our 
lips symphony. We have only to think of certain 
pictures of Whistler, where a grey note is supported 
by united harmonies of the same tone. 2 

1 Raymond Bouyer. 

2 ' Is it by some fatality of decadence that to-day every art shows a desire to 
encroach upon its sister art, that painters introduce musical scales into painting, 


Take, for example, the portrait of Miss Alexander, a 
little fair-headed girl, holding a grey felt hat on a 
panel of amber-coloured grey supported by the pure 
black of the wall, a piece of virtuoso execution in the 
scales of grey and silver ! And such pictures are legion. 
And then think of the so-called ' verlibriste ' poetry, 
the breaking up of traditional metres, an instrumen- 
tation which is at every moment varied, contrasted, 

This Revolution is doubtless not due to a single man, 
yet might it not justly have inscribed upon its banner the 
sonnet of Baudelaire ? 

The pursuit of sensation must necessarily lead to what 
Baudelaire calls degout de la me extase de la me. An 
attitude Nietzschean par excellence. 

Degout de la me. No man ever felt it more than 
Nietzsche ; for was he not at first a fervid disciple of that 
greatest of pessimists, Schopenhauer? 

But, the influence of Schopenhauer admitted, what 
does it explain? We accept only these doctrines which 
already exist forcibly in ourselves, or, as Nietzsche said, 
' there is no philosophy that is not supported by a state 
of mind which is the outcome of our instincts.' And 
the pessimism of the nineteenth-century French writers 
is such a common trait that we may call it almost 
instinctive they seem to have imbibed it from infancy. 
Baudelaire is perhaps the greatest pessimist of his pessi- 
mistic nation. As such too, he has portrayed himself 
in his work ; he took pleasure in describing his soul's 
darkness to us : 

' Mon ame est un tombeau que, mauvais cenobite, 
Depuis 1'eternite je parcours et j'habite, 
Rien n'embellit les murs de ce cloitre odieux ! ' 

sculptors colour into sculpture, men of letters plastic devices into literature, 
and other artists a kind of encyclopaedic philosophy into plastic art itself?' 



And it comes to pass that 

* ... la terre est changee en un cachot humide 
Ou PEsperance, comme une chauve-souris, 
S'en va battant les murs de son aile timide 
Et se cognant la tete a des plafonds pourris. 

Et de longs corbillards, sans tambours ni musique, 
Defilent lentement dans mon ame ; 1'Espoir 
Vaincu, pleure, et PAngoisse atroce, despotique, 
Sur mon crane inclined plante son drapeau noir.' 

We could multiply indefinitely quotations of this sort. 
Finally his pessimism grows so deep that he knows not 
where he shall turn, and his soul becomes une vieille 
gabare sans mats sur une mer monstrueuse et sans bords, 
and hope deserts him : 

' L'irresistible Nuit etablit son empire, 
Noire, humide, funeste et pleine de frissons ; 
Une odeur de tombeau dans les tenebres nage, 
Et mon pied peureux froisse, au bord du marecage 
Des crapauds impreVus et de froids lima^ons.' 

The same idea recurs over and over again. Take, for 
example, the close of ' L'Irreparable ' : 

'J'ai vu parfois, au fond d'un theatre banal 

Qu'enflammait Porchestre sonore, 
Une fee allumer dans un ciel infernal 

Une miraculeuse aurore ; 
J'ai vu parfois au fond d'un theatre banal 

Un etre, qui n'etait que lumiere, or et gaze 

Terrasser Penorme Satan ; 
Mais mon coeur, que jamais ne visite Pextase, 

Est un theatre ou Pon attend 
Toujours, toujours en vain, 1'fetre aux ailes de gaze ' ; 

or that wonderful piece from * Spleen ' (No. LXXVIIL), 
where he describes himself as having lost even his 
curiosity, beginning : 

' J'ai plus de souvenirs que si j'avais mille ans. . . . 
Rien n'egale en longueur les boiteuses journees, 
Quand sous les lourds flocons des neigeuses anndes 


L' Ennui, fruit de la morne incuriosite, 
Prend les proportions de Pimmortalite ' ; 

or this : 

' Nous avons vu partout et sans 1'avoir cherche, 
Du haut jusqu'en has de Pechelle fatale, 
Le spectacle ennuyeux de 1'immortel peche : 
La femme, esclave vile orgueilleuse et stupide, 
Sans rire s'adorant, et s'aimant sans degout, 
L'homme, tyran goulu, paillard dur et cupide, 
Esclave de Pesclave et ruisseau dans 1'egout ; 

Le bourreau qui jouit, le martyr qui sanglote, 
La fete qu'assaisonne et parfume le sang ; 
Le poison du pouvoir dnervant le despote, 
Et le peuple amoureux du fouet abrutissant ; 

Plusieurs religions semblables k la notre, 
Toutes escaladant le ciel ; la Saintete, 
Comme en un lit de plume un delicat se vautre 
Dans les clous et le crin cherchant la volupte. 

L'Humanite bavarde, ivre de son genie, 

Et, folle maintenant comme elle jadis, 

Criant a Dieu, dans sa furibonde agonie : 

" O mon semblable, O mon maitre, je te maudis ! " 

Et les moins sots, hardis amants de la Demence, 
Fuyant le grand troupeau parque par le Destin, 
Et se refugiant dans 1'opium immense ! 
Tel est du globe entier 1'eternel bulletin. 

Amer savoir, celui qu'on tire du voyage ! 
Le monde, monotone et petit, aujourd'hui 
Hier, demain, toujours, nous fait voir notre image 
Une oasis d'horreur dans un desert d'ennui. . . .' 

But the fact which constitutes Baudelaire's originality, 
and which brought about Nietzsche's success, is that 
both celebrated the beauty of life. t Extase de la vie,' 
writes Baudelaire after saying * degout de la vie,' just as 
in Nietzsche seeing the world in beauty saves him from 
pessimism and engenders his love of life : * And thus 
spake I often to myself for consolation: " Courage! be 


of good cheer, old heart ! An unhappiness has failed to 
befall thee : enjoy that as thy happiness." ' 

Is not this just what Baudelaire did, not only when he 
rejoiced in his unhappiness as in happiness, but when, 
thanks to it, he drew fresh sounds from the ' new thrills 
of his lyre ' ? 

For Nietzsche, as for Baudelaire, beauty can redeem 
all sorrow. It is this point of view which gave birth to 
Nietzsche's conception of the spirit of Apollo and the 
spirit of Dionysus, as M. Jules Gaultier has excellently 
explained in his book De Kant a Nietzsche. And it is 
this point of view which made Baudelaire write his 
wonderful sonnet * Vie Anterieure ' (J'ai longtemps habite 
sous de vastes portiques), and ' La Geante ' and ' Le 
Balcon,' and so many charming prose poems where the 
author of ' La Charogne ' celebrates life for its own sake. 

Just as Nietzsche attributes to the Greeks a certain 
mental attitude which he calls the union of the Apollonian 
and Dionysian spirit, so it pleases us to find in Baudelaire 
the pessimist conception of life leading to a dream of 

The Greek, says Nietzsche, knew suffering, but sur- 
mounted it by the creation of art. Between reality which 
wounds him and his own sensitiveness, he places the 
world of beautiful forms, the world of beautiful verse 
the Apollonian world. But the Greeks went further : 
under the dominion of a divine intoxication man feels 
his identity with the whole universe, and in the joys he' 
feels at such a discovery he offers up a hymn to Dionysus. 
Thus Dionysian art in making him understand the 
identity of spectacle and spectator has justified life in his 

Thus suffering becomes joy, and the phenomenon makes 
itself felt before every tragic drama. 

We have not to discuss here whether Nietzsche's theory 
in its application to the Greeks be true or false ; but it 


certainly holds in application to Baudelaire. The poet 
understands that art is the great consoler, and while 
decrying life for its cruelty, at the same time celebrates it 
for its beauty, celebrates it because it is life. 

Take the piece called * Soleil ' here we are in absolute 

A ray of sunshine strikes across town and fields. The 
poet has gone in search of ideas, and at first he sees only 
the closed shutters which lend an air of suspicion to the 
houses he loses himself in a maze of dark, dank streets, 
where the houses look evil and diseased. But is not 
the poet like the sun which deifies all, shining alike on 
slum or temple, shedding its golden glory on the dunghill 
and on the flowers. 

Do we not see here the birth of the < art for art ' theory 
in the poet's soul ? 

In truth, when we come to reflect about this subject, 
we find nothing is more interesting than these two minds, 
the one French, the other German, both seeing life in 
sorrowful light, then both transforming their philosophic 
feelings into assthetic feelings, eager to prolong the 
spectacle, and to describe it, and while maintaining a 
profound disgust of life at the same time adoring it in 
that it is life. And the two minds destined to tread the 
same path arrive inevitably at the same resting-place of 

The one will say : 

* La volupte unique et supreme de 1'amour git dans la certitude 
de faire le mal et 1'homme et la femme savent de naissance que 
dans le mal se trouve toute volupte.' 

(If Nietzsche had written that how admirable it would 
have been considered !) 

The other will say to men : < Harden yourselves,' 
or : 

' I am very glad to see the miracles which the warm sun brings 


forth : such are tigers, and palm-trees, and rattlesnakes. Also 
amongst men there is a beautiful brood of the warm sun, and much 
that is marvellous in the wicked.' 

And might we not quote here that magnificent * Don 
Juan aux Enfers,' with all its tragic grandeur, and which 
so many superficial readers have despised, untouched by 
all the Nietzschean philosophy of the poem the amorfati 
before which Nietzsche bows down. 

Strange as a comparison between Baudelaire and 
Nietzsche may seem at first sight, the strangeness tends 
more and more to disappear when we remember another 
point of agreement between the two writers : the horror in 
which they both hold the encyclopaedic and revolutionary 
spirit : ' So speaketh justice unto mej says Zarathoustra ; 
' men are not equal and neither shall they become so ! 
What would be my love of the Superman if I spoke 
otherwise ? ' 

And Gautier tells us of Baudelaire that he had ' a 
perfect horror of progressivists, utilitarians, humani- 
tarians, Utopists.' 

Baudelaire wrote in a letter to Arcelle : 

' With the exception of Chateaubriand, Balzac, Stendhal, Meri- 
mee, de Vigny, Flaubert, Banville, Gautier, Leconte de Lisle, all 
the modern rabble inspire me with horror. Virtue with horror. 
Vice with horror. Fluent style with horror. Progress with horror' 

And he returns to the question of progress in a char- 
acteristic note on Laclos : 'Have morals improved? No, 
energy for wickedness has grown less. And stupidity has 
taken the place of wit.' 

'This is a great deal of metaphysics for an introduction,' writes 
Gautier in his Preface ; * but Baudelaire's was a subtle, complicated, 
reasoning, paradoxical nature, and more philosophical than is 
generally that of poets.' 


We will stop lest a desire of forcing comparisons too 
far should lead to falsity. 

Having seen the unjust contempt with which certain 
pedants would overwhelm the ideas of Baudelaire, we 
have found pleasure in comparing him with the philosopher 
who is most in vogue at this moment. 

When we come to think upon it, we see that life, varied 
as it may seem, turns ever on the same round, and the 
same conditions of mind reappear across the centuries. 

There remains always, however, a fairly great difference 
between Nietzsche and Baudelaire: Nietzsche declared war 
to the knife on Christianity, in which he saw a religion of 
slaves ; Baudelaire, on the other hand, saw in Catholicism 
the only doctrine that could render the universe intelligible. 
Nietzsche, in virtue of his atavism and his education, 
always took renunciation as the typical Christian action ; 
his philosophy, and above all, his pathological condition 
led him towards the end of his life to make the instinct of 
greatness the principle of all morality, and thus he could 
not do otherwise than condemn the Christianity sur- 
rounding him. 

Quite different is the position of Baudelaire. In the 
first place, without any strong positive beliefs, like every 
Parisian, he was led by his moral preoccupation to attach 
a very high importance to the conditions healthy, or 
unhealthy of the human being, or, let us say to those 
morbid conditions into which vice leads him. 

' Impiety does not exist in Baudelaire's nature ; he oelieves in a 
superior form of mathematics established by God from all time, 
whose least infringement is followed by the hardest punishments. 
. . . With Baudelaire sin is always followed by remorse, anguish, 
disgust, despair, and is punished by itself, which is the greatest 
suffering.' * 

Remorse, disenchantment, mental anguish are facts as 
real as any battle indeed more real in the eyes of the 

1 Theophile Gautier. Preface. 


psychologist, carrying with them more incalculable 

Every writer who takes an interest in the human 
personality is led inevitably into ethics ; we have only 
to think of Taine setting out with an entirely negative 
philosophic conception, but at the end of his life admitting 
the reality of virtue and vice, and asking to be given a 
religious burial. 

After all, what matters it whether the philosophy of 
Baudelaire be profound or superficial ? We shall still 
be attracted by the bitter-sweet fruit of his poems. Shall 
we go to them to find precepts of life, or a picture of the 
decadence of the second Empire, or a healing for our 
suffering ? 

What gives these poems their magic their more than 
magic, their deep life, is that in them a human soul 
reveals itself a soul which is tormented, unsatisfied, 
sinning, but always in < correspondence ' with Heaven- 
just as Baudelaire wished it. 

His irony, his misanthropy, his pessimism only serve 
to make us understand from what heights the poet must 
have fallen. 

Doubtless we should have liked to think that towards 
the evening of his life he freed himself from the bands of 
opium, hashish and alcohol. Yet who knows? Cured, 
would he have composed his masterpieces? Better still, 
who knows but that through him certain minds have not 
arrived at a surer conception of their obligations ? Who 
shall pronounce on either success or happiness save ev 

At the outset of this study we declared that Baude- 
laire's marvellous style would suffice to explain his influ- 

We must confess also that the last thirty years of the 
nineteenth century have played a considerable part in 
propagating him. 


The age to which we refer is in one way a literary 
reaction against science : it worships the mysterious, and 
therefore Baudelaire was bound to please since he seemed 
the very exerciser of reality. 

Two great wants in turn have ruled nineteenth-century 
French literature : the need of science and the need of 
the ideal. The latter dominates at the beginning of the 
nineteenth century Chateaubriand is its choir-master. 
Then from 1840-80 there appeared the positivists, the 
realists, the naturalists ; all those call them what you 
will worship Science, with Taine as their director. 

Sainte-Beuve wrote at the end of his articles on Madame 
Bo vary : 

' In many places, and under diverse forms I think I recognise 
new literary signs : science, spirit of observation, force, some 
hardness even. Such are the characteristics which seem to dis- 
tinguish the front-rank men of the new generation. Son of, and 
brother of distinguished doctors, M. Gustave Flaubert holds the pen 
as others the scalpel. Anatomists and physiologists, I find you 
everywhere ! ' 

When we say that the years 1840-80 mark the reign of 
the positivist spirit, we do not mean to say that there were 
no dreamers, no believers, at that time ; we merely mean 
that this spirit was the spirit of the men who direct the 
course of minds. 

In the same way when we say that from 1870, or from 
1880-1900, the desire of the ideal seems uppermost, we only 
mean that apart from a few exceptions the worshippers 
of science do admit the existence of other things than 

Now Baudelaire has certainly benefited by this change 
of temper. 

Here again, to be quite exact, we ought to say that the 
seed sown by an original thinker, even when it falls on 
stony ground, is not choked ; on the contrary, it creates 
for itself the soil which develops it, like the wallflower 


growing in the crevice of a rock and which reproduces 
itself despite a greedy soil, cruel winds and winters. 

Brilliant as was the triumph of science in Baudelaire's 
age, certain minds brought up in the school of Pascal 
(that is, realising the limits of the domain of science) felt 
that even if science banish all idea of mystery from the 
understanding, it leaves intact the domain of our feelings 
(Nietzsche would say ' instincts ' where we say * feelings '). 
For here is something irreducible. You cannot measure 
a sensation ; our ' hinterland ' cannot be reduced to a 
molecular theory. 

The philosophy of Herbert Spencer the last comer- 
far from completing the triumph of science, on the 
contrary brought into view more than one crevice in the 
philosophic edifice. Instead of discovering the secret of 
things as we had hoped, all that we discovered was the 
form of a mind, a powerful mind certainly, but human, 
therefore fallible. 

The Spencerian system was too little comprehensive to 
explain the whole universe. As we feel in us unsatisfied 
desires, unemployed forces, we conclude that in the uni- 
verse there is something which must satisfy our desires 
or set free these forces. 

What thinking being worthy of the name has not 
passed through its curious moments in which life appears 
to be something ineffable, when the wonder at all its 
mystery becomes almost painful. 

As Browning puts it so well : 

' Just when we are safest, there 's a sunset touch, 
A fancy from a flower bell, someone's death, 
A chorus ending from Euripides. 
And that 's enough for fifty hopes and fears 
As old and new at once as nature's self 
To rap and knock and enter in our soul, 
Take hands and dance there, a fantastic ring, 
Round the ancient idol, on his base again 
The grand Perhaps ! ' 


Evolutionism and positivism had shut the gates of that 
great unknown into which we long to penetrate. 

It explains nothing to say that such sensations prove 
the poet's dipsomaniacs or ' superior degenerates ' what 
matters the cause if the effect is produced ? 

Better still, when the chosen of a nation arrive at that 
state which Ravaisson prophesies, where he announces 
< the predominance of what might be called a spiritualist 
realism or positivism, having for generating principle the 
consciousness which the mind takes in itself of an existence 
from which it recognises that all other existences are 
derived, upon which they are dependent, and which is 
nothing other than its action,' 1 it is clear that the future 
does not belong to pure materialism. 2 

Long before the philosophers rang the passing bell of 
empiricism pure and simple, the public lettered and un- 
lettered had felt that such a philosophy does not satisfy. 
To see that this is so we have only to think how man 
strives with music, poetry, romance, to calm and lull to 
rest his insatiable instincts. 

At the same time, if we desire consolation for reality, 
yet we also desire fuller knowledge of reality, and ultimate 
arrival at the domination of reality. These two instincts 
are united by the love of the marvellous and the desire of 

1 Ravaisson. ' Rapport sur la philosophic en France au xix e siecle.' 

2 In order to make this idea plainer, and without wishing to enter upon a 
philosophical discussion here, we will refer the reader to the following works : 

Bergson, Henri Louis. ' Essai sur les donnees immediates de la conscience.' 
Paris, 1889. (English translation by F. L. Pogson, 1910. Bibliographies.) 

* L'e volution creatrice.' Paris, 1907. 

' Matiere et memoire : Essai sur la relation du corps a 1'esprit.' Paris, 1896. 

Maurice Blondel. l L'action : Essai d'une critique de la vie, et d'une science 
de la pratique,' 1898. ' Histoire et Dogme,' 1904. 

Edouard le Roy. ' Dogme et critique. ' 

Gaston Wilhaud. f Essai sur les conditions et les limites de la certitude 
logique.' Second edition. Paris, 1893. 

Emile Boutroux. * Etudes d'histoire de la philosophic,' 1897. * Science et 
Religion dans la philosophic contemporaine,' 1908. (English translation, 
Jonathan Nield, 1909.) 


understanding, and becoming strengthened in their 
amalgamation create in their turn another desire which 
is manifested in the success gained by theosophy, by the 
Russian novel, and finally by the symbolist poetry. 

Hindu doctrines came back into favour in the last 
fifteen years of the nineteenth century. It was the 
fashion to be Buddhist, and Jean Lahor (Henri Cazalis) 
in his very beautiful verse taught us the philosophy of 
Cakia-Mouni. Even Jules Lemaitre, at that time l (quantum 
mutatus ab illo!) wrote that Buddhist doctrine was the best 
salve for healing suffering thought. 

Elsewhere, there was quite a renaissance of magic, and 
M. Peladan, before becoming the excellent art critic he is 
to-day, modestly called himself Sar Peladan. 

Further, Charcot's experiments in hypnotism had shown 
the way in a direction where many minds went astray, 
but where M. Pierre Janet has made some very fine 
discoveries. 2 

Finally, after the articles of M. de Vogue in the Revue 
des Deux Mondes on the Russian novel, the whole of 
France began to read the works of Dostoiewski and 
Tolstoy, charmed with the heroic mysticism with which 
the works of these two masters are imbued. 

Then appeared a perfect pleiad of writers (those writers 
we are going to consider in this study), who declared 
that the world as presented by science was too cut and 
dried, or too stupid. They delighted in seeing the infinite 
in everything. Some of them went into raptures over the 
eternullite du monde to use the expression of one of them, 
Laforgue. Others fled from anarchy to Rome. We are 
still too close to the movement to be able to pass cool 
judgment upon it; it is for posterity to pronounce upon the 
masterpieces which grew up in the shadow of Baudelaire. 

1 1889. 

a Pierre Janet. ' L'automatisme psychologique : Essai de psychologic 
experimentale.' 1889. 




WE have already studied those men who, by reason of 
the part they play in the circumstances which lead to the 
development of Baudelairism, may justly be called the 
predecessors of Baudelaire himself. But there is another 
class of predecessors (though the two classes are by no 
means mutually exclusive), those who directly influence 
the coming writer by their writings. Having endeavoured 
to present the chief characteristics of Baudelaire's work, 
we shall now consider to what extent we can trace these 
characteristics back to his reading. 

Of all these predecessors the most original was perhaps 
Edgar Poe. There is a tendency just now among English 
and American critics to decry Poe l ; it is the old story of 
Tennyson's fable : 

' Most can raise the flower now 
For all have got the seed.' 

But it should be remembered that Poe did really bring a 
new element into literature the element of artistic horror. 
This is something quite apart from the supernatural of 
Walpole's Castle of Otranto with its sighing portraits 
and mysterious helmets, or of Mrs. Radcliffe's ghostly 
machinery, or of ' Monk ' Lewis's spirits and demons. 

1 The latest study of Poe by Mr. Arthur Ransome (1910) is an exception to 



Before Poe the novelists in this department had produced 
little of any real artistic or literary value. 

Poe, in one side of his work, brought to this crude 
supernatural a psychological and artistic interest, and 
thereby showed the way to a new and fertile field of 
literature into which domain Baudelaire was the first to 

There are indeed some striking resemblances between 
Poe and Baudelaire. In the first place, their life is not 
without analogy. Both had the misfortune to displease 
their father by choosing a literary career. Both worked 
in surroundings that were uncongenial to them : Poe in 
that America which Baudelaire characterised as a * great 
gas-lit barbarism ' ; Baudelaire in Belgium, of which his 
mildest criticism is that it is a country of fools. Finally, 
both sought by means of artificial sensation to find relief 
from oppressive reality. The end of both is tragically 
sombre : Baudelaire dragging out the two last years of 
his existence with brain paralysis ; Poe falling into the 
hands of political blackmailers, plied with drink, and 
carried round from polling-booth to polling-booth, 
then abandoned in the street. He was discovered next 
morning, recognised and taken to the hospital, where he 
died soon after. 

The resemblances in the work of the two poets are 
even stronger. M. Crepet has told us how Baudelaire's 
enthusiasm grew when once he had begun reading Poe : 
* I have rarely seen an enthusiasm so complete, so rapid, 
so absolute. He would go about asking every new-comer, 
wherever he were, in the street or a cafe, or a printing 
establishment, morning or evening, " Do you know 
Edgar Poe?" and according to the reply he would either 
pour out his enthusiasm or shower questions on his 
hearer.' The reason for this enthusiasm was that in Poe, 
Baudelaire had discovered a mind very like his own. In 
a letter to Armand Fraisse of 1858 he says : 


'In 1846 or 1847 I became acquainted with a few fragments of 
Edgar Poe. I experienced a peculiar emotion ; as his complete works 
were not collected till after his death, I had the patience to make 
friends with some Americans living in Paris, so as to borrow from 
them collections of papers that had been edited by Edgar Poe. 
And then I found believe me or not, as you will poems and 
tales of which I had already a vague, confused and ill-ordered idea, 
and which Poe had known how to arrange and bring to perfection.' 

And six years later, in a letter he wrote to M. Thore to 
defend Manet against the charge of having copied Goya, 
he says : 

'You doubt whether such geometrical parallelisms can present 
themselves in nature. Well then I am accused of imitating Edgar 
Poe ! Do you know why I translated Poe with such patience ? 
Because he was like me. The first time that I opened a book of his, 
I saw with terror and delight not only subjects I had dreamed of, 
but sentences that I had thought of, and that he had written twenty 
years before.' 

Let us then now consider the work of these two poets. 
First, we find in both the same theory of art : that beauty 
must be considered as an end and not as a means to an 
end, and with this the hatred of the didactic. This last 
Poe calls ' a heresy too palpably false to be long tolerated, 
but one which, in the brief period it has already endured, 
may be said to have accomplished more in the corruption 
of our poetic literature than all its other enemies com- 
bined. ... It has been assumed tacitly and avowedly, 
directly and indirectly, that the ultimate object of all 
poetry is truth. Every poem, it is said, should inculcate 
a moral, and by this moral is the poetical merit of the 
work to be adjudged. . . . We have taken it into our 
heads that to write a poem simply for the poem's sake, 
and to acknowledge such to have been our design, would 
be to confess ourselves radically wanting in the true 
poetic dignity and force ; but the simple fact is, that 
would we but permit ourselves to look into our own 



souls, we should immediately there discover that under 
the sun there neither exists nor can exist any work more 
thoroughly dignified, more supremely noble than this 
very poem, this poem per se, this poem which is a poem 
and nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's 

And here is Baudelaire's view : 

1 The more art aims at being philosophically clear, the more will 
it degrade itself, the more will it return towards the state of the 
infantile hieroglyphic ; on the other hand, the more art detaches 
itself from teaching, the higher it will mount towards pure and 
disinterested beauty.' UArt Philosophique. 

Speaking of drames et romans honnetes Baudelaire returns 
again to his subject : 

'Is art useful? Yes. Why? Because it is art. Is there 
such a thing as harmful art? Yes that which upsets the 
conditions of life. Vice is attractive, then you must paint it so ; 
but it drags in its wake its peculiar maladies and sorrows; you 
must describe them. . . . The first necessary condition of healthy 
art is the belief in an integral unity, I defy you to find me a 
single imaginative work which combines all the conditions of the 
beautiful, and which is a harmful work.' 

Like Gautier in this theory, Poe and Baudelaire are 
like him again in their profession that V inexprimable 
riexiste pas Poe speaking of himself as one who 

' Maintained the power of words denied that ever 
A thought arose within the human brain 
Beyond the utterance of the human tongue.' 

Both Poe and Baudelaire have a decided taste for the 
horrible. Only here there is a difference ; it were better 
perhaps to say that Poe has a predilection for horror, and 
Baudelaire for the horrible. Poe in his taste is much more 
* popular ' than Baudelaire ; Poe loved a good thorough- 
going crime, is led sometimes to descend to the level of 
the shilling shocker. Many of his tales are written to 


merely present a hair-raising situation, a terrifying state 
of mind such as the Fall of the House of Usher, The 
Masque of the Red Death, The Tell-Tale Heart, or The 
Black Cat, with its wealth of nauseous detail. 

On this subject much has been said of Baudelaire's ' La 
Charogne,' which critics compare with Poe's ' Conqueror 
Worm,' insisting, and rightly, that Baudelaire has here 
out-Poe'd Poe in horror. But from the fact that a poem 
of Poe's suggests a poem of the same kind to his successor, 
it cannot be rigidly deduced that the latter's ideas on 
the general subject are identical with those of his pre- 
decessor. Baudelaire's poem is rather the outcome of his 
habit of looking at things from Flaubert's point of view, 
who said : ' I have never looked at a child without 
thinking that it will grow old, nor can I look on a cradle 
without thinking of a tomb. To contemplate a woman 
makes me think of her skeleton.' In this province 
Baudelaire is the artist, Poe the novelist. 

Further. For Baudelaire there is no beauty without 
some mystery : 

'He who looks through an open window,' says Baudelaire, 
4 never sees so much as he who looks at a closed window. There 
is no object so profound, so mysterious, so fertile, so dark, so 
dazzling as a window lit up by a candle. What you can see in 
the sunshine is always less interesting than what goes on behind a 
window.' Les Fenetres. 

It is the poetic mystery that attracts Baudelaire. He said 
in his Mademoiselle Bistouri-. 'I am passionately fond 
of a mystery, because I am always in hopes of unravell- 
ing it.' Poe, too, hopes to unravel his mystery, but in 
a different sense from Baudelaire. For Poe ' mystery ' 
means a crime of which the perpetrator is unknown, and 
whom the novelist has to discover. The offspring of Poe 
in this region is Sherlock Holmes. In the same way the 
abstract mystery the mystery of the universe has no 


hold on Poe. Spiritual philosophy is as absent from his 
work as the didactic aim. Yet the works of his two 
greatest disciples, Baudelaire and Villiers de 1'Isle Adam, 
are full of searchings into these very problems. 

Baudelaire is urged by his curiosity to go into the 
public gardens in order to watch les petites meilles, and 
pursue the reveries they suggest. Poe watches a crowd. 
A man in it attracts his attention ; so active is his curiosity 
that he follows this man all night, and it is not till morning 
that he has time to ponder and to see in this man * the 
type of genius and deep crime,' and to give up hope of 
reading in his heart. ' The worst heart of the world is a 
grosser book than the Hortulus A nimce ; and perhaps it 
is one of the great mercies of God that this book ' lasst 
sich nicht lesen ! ' 

This curiosity leading on to dreamy humour is a sign 
of the ardour with which these two men sought to forget 
their unhappy surroundings a dream is for them one of 
the principal means of forgetfulness. 

* Dreams, always dreams ! ' cries Baudelaire in his Invitation au 
Voyage, 'and the more delicate and ambitious the soul, the more 
dreams carry it far from the possible. Every man carries within him 
his dose of natural opium, endlessly secreted and renewed; from 
birth to death how many hours can we count filled by positive 
delight, or by an accomplished, decided action.' 

And at the end of his Projets de Voyages he exults in the 
power of dream : 

* To-day in my dreams I have had three domiciles in which I 
found equal pleasure. Why force my body to change its place when 
my mind travels so easily ? ' 

Poe said of himself that all his life he had been but a 
dreamer, that in dreaming lay ever his greatest pleasure. 
* To muse for long unwearied hours with my attention 
riveted to some frivolous device on the margin or in the 
typography of a book ; to be absorbed for the better part 


of a summer's day in a quaint shadow falling aslant upon 
the tapestry on the floor ; to lose myself for an entire 
night in watching the steady flame of a lamp on the 
embers of a fire ; to dream away whole days over the 
perfume of a flower ; to repeat monotonously some 
common word until the sound of it, by frequent repetition, 
ceased to convey any idea whatever to the mind ; to lose 
all sense of motion or physical existence by means of 
absolute bodily quiescence long and obstinately persevered 
in : such were a few of the most common and least per- 
nicious vagaries induced by a condition of the mental 
faculties, not indeed altogether unparalleled, but certainly 
bidding defiance to anything like analysis or explanation.' 
He liked to think of the universe as one great dream. 

' All that we see or seem, 
Is but a dream within a dream ' ; 

and his Eureka was offered < to the dreamers, and those 
who put faith in dreams as the only realities.' 

M. Lauvriere in his detailed book on Poe has pointed 
out the dangers to which such a temperament lays itself 
open 'when all the fantasies and curiosities of the in- 
terior life triumph over the demands and laws of the 
external world,' hysteria is according to him the com- 
monest of them. The saddest result of this temper comes, 
I think, when the dreams turn to nightmares. 

The dreamy humour appears also in those fables 
1 Silence,' * Shadow,' of which we are reminded by such 
prose poems of Baudelaire as < L'Etranger,' ' Les Bienfaits 
de la Lune.' When Poe and Baudelaire paint Nature 
(in the landscape sense of the word), they always call forth 
a dream-landscape, a landscape which is imaginary, fairy- 
like, or as M. Lemaitre would say lunaire. As a matter 
of fact, we know that Poe had intended to describe in 
great detail a moon-landscape, as he tells us : 

' Fancy revelled in the wild and dreamy regions of the moon 


Imagination, feeling herself for once unshackled, roamed at will 
among the ever-changing wonders of a shadowy and unstable land. 
Now there .were hoary and time-honoured forests, and craggy 
precipices, and waterfalls, tumbling with a loud noise into abysses 
without bottom. Then I came suddenly into still noonday solitudes, 
where no wind of heaven ever intruded, and where vast meadows of 
poppies and slender lily-looking flowers spread themselves out a 
weary distance, all silent and motionless for ever. Then again I 
journeyed far down away into another country, where it was all one 
dim and vague lake, with a boundary line of clouds. And out of 
this melancholy water arose a forest of tall eastern trees like a 
wilderness of dreams. And I bore in mind that the shadows of the 
trees which fell upon the lake remained not on the surface where 
they fell but sank slowly and steadily down, and commingled with 
the waves, while from the trunks of the trees other shadows were 
continually coming out, and taking the place of their brothers thus 
entombed. "This then," I said thoughtfully, "is the very reason 
why the waters of this lake grow blacker with age, and more 
melancholy as the hours run on.'" 

This is a perfect example of dream-landscape. 

And from this same dreamy temper springs the habit of 
assigning a kind of life to inanimate objects. With Poe 
this idea turns rather to the terrible side. Perhaps the 
best example comes in the tale Berenice. At the sight 
of Berenice's smile he becomes obsessed with the idea of 
her teeth : 

' I surveyed their characteristics, I dwelt upon their peculiarities, 
I pondered upon their conformation, I mused upon the alteration 
in their nature. I shuddered as I assigned to them in imagination 
a sensitive and sentient power, and, even when unassisted by the 
lips, a capability of moral expression. Of Mademoiselle Salle it 
has been well said, Que tons ses pas etaient des sentiments^ and of 
Berenice I more seriously believed, que toutes ses dents etaient des 

With Baudelaire the development of this idea is rather 
purely contemplative. Take, for example, the opening of 
the Chambre Double : 


* A room which is like a dream, a truly spiritual room whose 
stagnant atmosphere is delicately tinted with pink and blue. 

' There the soul takes a bath of idleness perfumed with regret and 
desire. It is something like the twilight, blueish with a tint of rose; 
a voluptuous dream during an eclipse. 

' The furniture takes on an outstretched, prostrate, languid form. 
The furniture seems to be dreaming; it seems endowed with a 
somnambulistic life, like vegetable and mineral. The coverings 
speak a mute language, like flowers, skies, or sunsets.' 

This is the trait of Baudelairism which as we shall 
see was so enthusiastically taken up, carried to excess 
even, by Rodenbach. 

In their love of the mysterious Poe and Baudelaire had 
shown themselves members of the romantic movement ; 
the same is true of their theory of contrast, of joy born of 
misery, and of vice producing virtue. As Poe says at the 
beginning of Berenice : 

'Misery is manifold. The wretchedness of earth is multiform. 
Over-reaching the wide horizon as the rainbow, its hues are as 
various as the hues of that arch, as distinct too, yet as intimately 
blended. Over-reaching the wide horizon as the rainbow ! How 
is it that from beauty I have derived a type of unloveliness ? from 
the covenant of peace a simile of sorrow ? But as in ethics evil is 
a consequence of good, so in fact out of joy is sorrow born.' 

The idea of these two alternatives is found throughout 
Baudelaire's * Spleen et Ideal,' but true Baudelairism goes 
even further than this Byronism putting the contrast 
into one and the same person : , 

' Je suis la plaie et le couteau, 
Je suis le soufflet et la joue, 
Je suis les membres et la roue, 
Et la victime et le bourreau ! ' 

As for the verbal imitations of Poe in Baudelaire, M. 
Lauvriere in his book on Poe has sought them out with 
such indefatigable energy that it is impossible not to quote 
him on this subject. As he well remarks, it is impossible 


to read < Reversibilite,' < L' Irreparable,' 'L'Harmonie 
du Soir,' without noticing how Baudelaire employs the 
Poesque device of line repetition. ' Le Flambeau Vivant' 
was directly inspired by Poe's sonnet to Helen. The 
idea les marts, les pauvres morts ont de grandes douleurs ' 
is another reminiscence of Poe ; and again when Baude- 
laire describes himself as one of those 

' Au rire eternel condamnes 
'Et qui ne peuvent plus sourire ' 

he must have had in mind Poe's lines in the ' Haunted 

Palace ' : 

' Through the pale door 
A hideous throng rushed out for ever 
And laugh but smile no more.' 

In the same way in the Poemes en Prose, Baudelaire's 
analysis of the motives of wrongdoing in the ' Mauvais 
Vitrier' is certainly suggested by Poe's * Imp of the Per- 
verse/ just as < Laquelle est la Vraie ' is obviously copied 
from ' Morella.' 

Poe's range was far more limited than that of Baude- 
laire ; the Frenchman offers us a far more complex char- 
acter to study. One of the reasons for this lies doubtless 
in the fact that Poe never really spoke out about himself 
he never even mentions his surroundings Baudelaire 
records all the problems of the various moods of his 
troubled brain. Poe offers us no criticism of life, he 
accepts it ; therein he is far more resigned than Baude- 
laire. There is no counterpart of Baudelaire's Revolte in 
Poe's work. 

It is by this aloofness that Poe merits Mr Andrew 
Lang's reproach that he i lacked humanity.' He limited 
himself entirely to the unreal world, and therefore he can 
only appeal to us in a certain mood and he gives us 
nothing to carry away. 



WHEN we tried in our first chapter to analyse * Baude- 
lairism,' we had to make a sketch of the Baudelaire who 
lay slumbering in the heart of Sainte-Beuve. 

Here we have to return to this fertile subject without 
the pretension even of exhausting it. Sainte-Beuve is 
indeed the Montaigne of the nineteenth century, and 
everything which explains him must be in some way 
sacred to us. 

The first thing that strikes us when we study the 
relations between Sainte-Beuve and Baudelaire is the 
extreme benevolence with which the fully developed 
critic (and henceforth a very classic and very Latin critic), 
treats this young, unknown and ' Parnassian ' poet. The 
reason is that in the author of the Fleurs du Mai Sainte- 
Beuve rediscovered the author of Joseph Delorme, of the 
Consolations, and of Volupte. He himself wrote to 
Baudelaire : ' My poetry is connected with yours. I 
had tasted the same bitter fruit, full of ashes at the heart.' 

And from his ' Correspondance,' we see that Baudelaire 
had a sincere affection for Sainte-Beuve. 

He says somewhere of himself: ' My affections spring 
largely from the mind,' and the saying applies well to this 
particular friendship. 

Baudelaire loved Poe, because he thought that Poe 
resembled him ; in the same way, what attracted him in 
the first place to Sainte-Beuve was the connection he saw 


between Sainte-Beuve's Poesies de Joseph Delorme and 
the Fleurs du Mai. 

In 1866, Baudelaire wrote in a letter to Sainte-Beuve : 

' I have been trying to plunge myself again into the " Spleen de 
Paris " (prose poem) for it was not finished. Well, one of these days 
I hope to be able to show the world a new Joseph Delorme 
fastening his rhapsodic thought to every accident of his stroll through 
life, and drawing from every object a disagreeable moral. . . . Joseph 
Delorme came in there quite naturally. I have taken to reading 
your poems again ab ovo. 

' I saw with pleasure that on every page I recognised lines that 
were old friends. It would seem that I had not such bad taste 
when I was a youngster.' 

In this same letter we learn that Baudelaire's favourites 
in this collection of poems were the ' Sonnet a Mme. G.,' 
' Le Joueur d'Orgue,' * Dans ce cabriolet de place/ 

Baudelaire and Sainte-Beuve have the same deep theory 
of art : you must pierce below the surface of things, try 
and see the soul lying underneath and understand its 
mystery. Here is one of Joseph Delorme's Pensees on 
this subject : 

' The feeling for art implies a lively and intimate understanding 
of things. While most men stop at the surface and appearance, 
while the real philosophers recognise and affirm the existence of a 
je ne sais quoi lying beyond natural phenomena, without being able 
to determine the nature of this je ne sais quoi, the artist, as if he 
were endowed with a separate sense, sets himself peacefully to work 
to realise, under -this visible world, the second and wholly interior 
world, of which the majority ignore the existence, while the philo- 
sophers limit themselves to affirming its existence. The artist is 
present at the invisible action of forces and sympathises with them 
as with a soul, he has received at birth the key of symbols and the 
understanding of figures ; that which to others is incoherent or 
contradictory is for him merely a harmonious contrast, a distant 
concord of the universal lyre.' 

In 1830 he writes to his good friend the Abbe Barbe : 


' I care very little for literary opinions . . . what I attend to 
seriously is life itself, its aim, the mystery of our own hearts; 
happiness, goodness ; and sometimes, when I feel sincerely inspired, 
the wish to express these ideas and feelings in accordance with the 
remote type of eternal beauty.' 

And it is the same kind of beauty which attracts both 
Sainte-Beuve and Baudelaire ; as the former put it : ' I 
learnt ... to follow, to fear and desire, that type of 
beauty which I will call baneful.' 1 

Sainte-Beuve loves a beauty which holds herself aloof, 
which is not the popular ideal of the common herd : 

' . . . the fact is that beauty, every kind of beauty, is no light thing 
accessible at once to all ; beyond ordinary beauty there is another 
to which one is initiated, and the steps leading up to it must be 
climbed slowly, like those of a temple or a sacred hill.' 

He has the same Baudelairian theory of the double 
aspect of the universe : ' Idol and symbol, revelation and 
deception, that is the aspect of all human beauty since Eve/ 
which recalls Baudelaire's words : * As quite a child I 
felt in my heart two contradictory ideas : the horror of 
life, and the ecstasy of life.' Mon Cosur mis a nu. 

Like Baudelaire again, the art that Sainte-Beuve desires 
at this period is a dreamy art : 

* Had it been given me to organise my life for my own pleasure, 
I would have wished it to have as motto, * L'art dans la reverie, et 
la reverie dans 1'art.' Pensees de Joseph Delorme. 

Or to quote from his poetry : 

' Puisque la nuit est sans nuages, 
Je veux rever, rever toujours ' ; 

and the same idea recurs in that paragraph in Volupte 
where he speaks of the great influence the Livre des 
Erreurs de la Volonte and L'homme du Desir had upon 
him : ' One truth in it struck me among others, that place 

1 Voluptt. 


where it is said that man has his birth and life in 

Both Baudelaire and Sainte-Beuve possessed an in- 
satiable curiosity; in Sainte-Beuve this curiosity is a 
dominant trait in his character, and became an almost 
physical need of investigation, of research, of compre- 
hension. This it is that made him such a great critic. 
Joseph Delorme confesses this curiosity : 

* Souvent un grand desir de choses inconnues, 
D'enlever mon essor plus haut que les nues, 
De ressaisir dans 1'air des sons evanouis, 
D'entendre, de chanter mille chant inou'is, 
Me prend a mon reveil.' 

Or in these quotations from Volupte : 

* Curiosity in research had a dangerous attraction for me, and 
without the pretext of honest zeal for truth, it vigorously decomposed 
what remained of my faith.' 

* Entry into a new home was always an agreeable discovery for 
me ; on the very threshold I felt a kind of commotion ; in the 
twinkling of an eye I would construct all its smallest concerns. 
That was a gift with me, a sign by which I should have read the 
intentions of Providence on my destiny.' 

This curiosity, this desire to see everything, to under- 
stand everything, brings with it the fear of being tied 
down to one place. As Baudelaire says : ' This life is a 
hospital wherein each patient is seized with the desire to 
change his bed,' and as Sainte-Beuve puts it : 

* " What ! tie myself down ? " I said to myself. " Tie myself down 
even in happiness ! " And face to face with this solemn idea, a 
shiver thrilled my whole body.' 

' There rose in the depths of my being a presentiment so painful 
as to be almost exhausting, and which warned me, in its wholly 
comprehensible languour, that I must wait, that the hour for 
decisive resolutions had not yet struck. The world, travel, the 
countless chances of war and courts, all those mysterious calcula- 


tions with which youth is so lavish, spread themselves before my 
eyes in the perspective of the infinite, collected, floated in mobile 
form under the tricks of light in the shadow of the thicket. I loved 
emotion, and misfortune even when only foreseen.' 

And elsewhere in the same book : 

1 1 suffered too on my own account for my unsatisfied powers, for 
that need of danger and renown which buzzed in my ears, for those 
varied tastes which, had they been cultivated in time and favoured 
by opportunity, would, I presumed to think, have made of me a 
political orator, a statesman or a warrior. My habitual thoughts of 
love and pleasure which overshadowed all others, undermining them 
little by little, did not immediately destroy them ; as I bathed in the 
overflowing lake of my languour, I frequently struck against a point 
of these more cruel rocks.' 

A favourite Baudelairian theory is that which has been 
well called la consolation par les arts : 

' Oui, le plaisir s'envole, 

La passion nous ment ; la gloire est une idole, 
Non pas PArt ; 1'Art sublime, eternal et divin 
Luit comme la Vertu ; le reste seul est vain. 3 

These are Sainte-Beuve's words ; here are Baude- 
laire's : 

' Fauconille proved for me, peremptorily, irrefutably, that the 
intoxication of art is more fitted than any other to veil the terrors 
of the abyss ; that genius can act a comedy on the brink of the 
tomb with such joy as prevents it from seeing the tomb, lost as it 
becomes in a paradise which excludes all idea of the tomb or 

Baudelaire refers here to the ' intoxication of art ' : with 
him, as we have seen, there can be consolation only 
through oblivion, and there is no oblivion without intoxi- 
cation of one sort or another. Sainte-Beuve felt the same 
thing : 

' I learnt that with sincere and tender characters voluptuousness 
is the initiation into vices and other base passions which they would 


never have dreamed of in the beginning. It made me conceive of 
intoxication, for in the evening after certain days I who am 
generally moderate have gone into a cafe, and asked for some 
strong liqueur, which I drank down eagerly.' 

Sainte-Beuve is in a way as much enfant de son siecle 
as Baudelaire ; he too suffers from the maladie du siecle 
on which subject we may follow the example of M. Anatole 
France, and quote Taine's words describing it as 

' the restlessness of Werther and of Faust, just like that which, at 
a similar moment, agitated man eighteen hundred years ago. I 
mean that discontent with the present, the vague desire for a higher 
beauty and ideal happiness, that painful tending towards the infinite. 
Man suffers by reason of his doubts, and yet he doubts, he tries to 
grasp his beliefs once more, they melt in his hands.' 

This is, indeed, a Baudelairian state of mind ; Sainte- 
Beuve may be said to have cultivated and encouraged it. 
It is he himself who applies St. Augustine's words amabam 
amare to his own case. 

Such a state of mind js bound to produce pessimism. 

* I learnt that for man each morning is reparation, each day 
continual ruin ; but the reparation suffices less and less, and the 
ruin continues to increase.' 

This is one of the irrefutable conclusions of Volupte. 

As a pendant to this conclusion let us quote that 
declaration from a letter to the Abbe Barbe which evolves 
through Joseph Delorme, the Consolations, and Volupte: 

' After many philosophic excesses and many doubts, I hope that I 
have arrived at believing that here on earth there is no peace save 
in religion, the orthodox Catholic religion practised intelligently and 
submissively. But alas ! for me this is but a theoretical result or 
inward appearance ; and I am far from arranging my life and all my 
actions as they should be.' 

Here we see the Sainte-Beuve who was able to write 
his immortal Port Royal. Later on, another Sainte-Beuve 


appears the one who remembers having been a disciple 
of Cabanis and of Destutt de Tracy. As he grew older, 
Sainte-Beuve became more and more sceptic. This is 
not the place for seeking the reasons of this change, but 
one may say that towards the end of his life his philo- 
sophy is that of the Preacher, ' Vanity of vanities, all is 

Baudelaire, who died comparatively young, had not 
time to complete his evolution ; all that one can say is that 
a few hopeful phrases, a few sincere resolutions are to be 
found in Mon Cceur mis a nu. 

1 1 swear to myself to lake henceforward these rules as the ever- 
lasting rules of my life. 

' To pray to God every morning, to God who is the receptacle of all 
strength, and all justice, to my father ; to Mariette and to Poe as 
intercessors ; pray them to lend me the necessary strength for doing 
my duty, and to grant to my mother life long enough to delight in 
my transformation, to work all day, or at least as much as my 
strength will permit ; to trust in God, that is to say in Justice itself, 
for the accomplishment of my projects ; and every evening to say a 
fresh prayer to ask of God life and strength for my mother and 
myself; to divide all I earn into four parts one for the expenses of 
daily life, one for my creditors, one for my friends, one for my 
mother ; to submit to the principles of strictest sobriety of which 
the first is the suppression of all " excitants," whatever they may be.' 

Baudelaire's attitude in these matters is best expressed 
by the closing words of his prose poem, ' Laquelle est la 
vraie?' ' Like a wolf caught in a trap, I remain perhaps 
for ever bound to the tomb of the ideal.' 



BAUDELAIRE, in the letter to Arsene Houssaye which 
serves as Preface to his Petits Poemes en Prose, says : 

' I have a little confession to make to you. It was when I was 
looking through for the twentieth time at least the famous 
Gaspard de la Nuit of Aloysius Bertrand (for has not a book that 
is known to you and me and a few of our friends every right to be 
called famous ?) that the idea occurred to me of attempting some- 
thing of the same kind, and of applying to the description of 
modern life or rather of a modern and more abstract life, that 
process which he applied to the strangely picturesque ancient life.' 

This it was that in the first place led us to study 
Bertrand, but indeed he deserves to be known for his own 
sake. He was long forgotten by the general public, or at 
most, remembered only by Baudelaire's passing mention 
of him, or by the statement of later critics that Baudelaire 
owed him little or nothing. In 1902, however, the 
Mercure de France reissued his work in easily access- 
ible form, and this fact, and the fact that the book has a 
sale, are of themselves significant. Modern French poetry 
is, on one side, with de Heredia and Henri de Regnier, 
descriptive. Bertrand's whole art is descriptive, his 
prose poems are pictures, his turn of mind is pictorial, 
and in this connection it must be remembered that he had 
a marked talent for craftsmanship. In this sense Bertrand 
may be described as an ancestor of all the Parnassians. 

Further, the qualities of Bertrand's style are such as to 


keep him fresh. He knew how to choose picturesque words 
of which the picturesqueness was lasting, and thus his 
scenes are still living; the reader of 1911 gets just as 
much pleasure out of them as the reader of 1843 can have 
done. Indeed, when we come to study this curious and 
original talent, far from being surprised that it should 
have appealed strongly to Baudelaire, we come to 
wonder that he did not make more than passing mention 
of Gaspard de la Nuit. 

Louis Jacques Napoleon Bertrand was born at Ceva in 
Piedmont on the 2oth April 1807. His father was from 
Lorraine, and a captain in the gendarmerie ; his mother 
was Italian. In 1814 the family came to France, and 
settled in Dijon for which town Louis Bertrand always 
kept so great an affection. 

'J'aime Dijon,' he says in the Preface to Gaspard de la 
Nuit, * comme 1'enfant sa nourrice dont il a suce le lait, 
comme le poete la jouvencelle qui a initie son coeur.' 

As a schoolboy he seems to have shown no ordinary 
character ; he took no part in his schoolfellows' amuse- 
ments, preferring to take refuge in the solitude of the 
Jardin de 1'Arquebuse of Dijon, sitting under the famous 
old black poplar, giving rein to his imaginative fancies. 

He cared only for weird books, those that treated of 
occult sciences or macabre subjects : Hoffmann had a 
great attraction for him. One of the greatest of his youth- 
ful amusements was making life-size charcoal sketches 
of hanged corpses on his attic walls, which made the 
servants scream with terror to Bertrand's great delight. 
His brother Frederic wrote of him as being nervous to 
excess : 

1 Haunted by troubled visions, dissatisfied with himself, unjust 
towards others, giving ear to unknown voices that conversed with 
him in the silence of the night. The moaning of the wind, the cry 
of an osprey, the howl of a dog echoing in the distance, would 
strike in him chords of a hidden instrument.' 



Those who knew him later on in Paris find the same 
traits of character. Sainte-Beuve tells us how from time 
to time you would discover him leaning on his attic 
window-sill talking for hours at a time with the weather- 
cock on his roof. Victor Pavie, 1 too, tells us that some- 
times his brain became so full of dazzling visions that 
he did nothing, * but waited dreaming, with that sublime 
incapacity that renders your man of genius more passive, 
more inert than the new-born babe.' 

1 Un rayon 1'eblouit, une goutte 1'enivre,' adds Sainte- 

It was in Dijon that Bertrand made his literary debut 
in a paper called Le Provincial, which was devoted 
entirely to literary questions of the day, and which for a 
period of five months (ist May to 3Oth September 1828) 
appeared twice a week. Bertrand's contributions include 
three of the prose poems later included after modification 
in Gaspardde la Nuit: 'Les Lavandieres (Jean des Tilles),' 
' Clair de Lune,' * La Gourde et le Flageolet (L'air magique 
de Jehan de Vittreaux),' and some poems. The following 
poem he dedicated to V. Hugo : 

1 Victor Pavie is an interesting figure. His grandfather had come to settle in 
Angers a few years before the Revolution, his father had become Imprimeur du 
Roi at Angers, and there Victor Pavie lived all his life with the exception of six 
years spent in Paris. During these six years he was the friend of Nodier, and 
of Sainte-Beuve ; he was always a welcome guest at Victor Hugo's, where he 
met all the celebrities of the day. When he returned to Angers he took over 
the management of his father's printing business, but at the same time wrote a 
considerable amount, but always in local papers. M. Rene Bazin has published 
two volumes of QLuvres Choisies, but the bulk of Pavie's work must be sought 
in the Affiches d? Angers, the Union de F Quest, the Revue de F Anjou, and the 
Memoires de la society cf agriculture, sciences et arts, and they are worth seeking 
out. His was, as M. Bazin puts it, a 'picturesque mind.' He devotes himself 
to the monuments of ancient Angers and old-time Anjou, describes them and 
calls up again their glory. He was always ready to seize any pretext ' to under- 
take or renew,' for himself and in his own part of the world the voyage 
pittoresque et romantique a travers Fancienne France, which Nodier accomplished 
only once. In the same way it is mainly through his two editions of Joachim 
du Bellay and Louis Bertrand, that he is chiefly remembered at the present 


' Comte en qui j'espere, 
Solent au nom du Pere 

Et du Fils, 

Par tes vaillants reitres, 
Les felons et traitres 

Deconfits ! 

Coucher a ta porte, 
Quand le vent n'apporte 

Cette nuit, 
Sur ce lit sans toile 
Pas meme 1'etoile 

De minuit ! 

Les murailles grises, 
Les ondes, les brises, 

La vapeur, 
La porte propice 
Qu'une terre tapisse 

Me font peur. 

La-haut, le feu terne 
De quelque lanterne 

Sous 1'auvent 
Qui pend, en ruines 
Parmi les bruines, 

Tremble au vent. 

J'entends un vieux garde 
Qui de loin regarde 

Fuir 1'eclair 
Qui chante et s'abrite 
Seul en sa guerite, 

Centre 1'air. 

Je vois 1'aube naitre 
Pres de la fenetre 

Du manoir, 
De dame en cornette 
Devant Pepinette 

De bois noir. 

Et moi, barbe blanche, 
Un pied sur la planche 
Du vieux pont, 


J'ecoute et personne 
A mon cor qui sonne 
Ne repond. 

Comte en qui j'espere 
Solent au nom du Pere 

Et du Fils 

Par tes vaillants reitres 
Les felons et traitres 

Deconfits ! ' 

As Sainte-Beuve says : * The rhymes and the rhythm 
would be enough to date this piece without any further 
indication. It was the moment of the ballad of le roi 
Jean^ the day after the Ronde du Sabbat, and the day 
before les Djinns. Bertrand with his melancholy noc- 
turnal caprice was greatly taken with these tricks ; he, 
among all, may be said to have remained enamoured of 
that sprite, that sly muse : Quern tu Melpomene semelS 

Hugo's reply was benevolent and thoroughly charac- 
teristic. Any yoting poet sending verses to Hugo was 
almost sure of a flattering reply. To encourage youthful 
writers is the surest means of gaining their admiration, 
and the admiration of the younger generation is a great 
asset for the poet who would maintain an assured position. 
It would be interesting to make a collection of all Hugo's 
letters to aspiring poets who invoked his protection. 
Bertrand quoted this letter later on in the Patriote de la 
Cote tf Or: 

' I read your poems to a circle of friends as I read Andre Chenier, 
Lamartine, or Alfred de Vigny : it is not possible to have more 
complete command of the secrets of technique. Our Emile 
Deschamps would avow himself equalled. Send me often from 
the provinces those verses like which so few are made in Paris.' 

Sainte-Beuve in his article on Bertrand quotes some 
other early poems, written in 1828 : ' La Jeune Fille ' and 
* L'Ange EnvoleV In his edition of Gaspard de la Nuit 
of 1868, Asselineau collected some early poems : ' La 


Noufrice,' a Scotch ballad imitated from Walter Scott, 
and a rendering of 'Jock o' Hazeldean,' the ' Regrets,' 
which we quote : 

* Lorsque, revant d'amour, dans 1'oubli de la vie, 
Nos bras s'entrelagaient, ma main pressait ta main, 
Oh ! qui m'eut dit alors qu'a mes baisers ravie, 
Tu me fuirais le lendemain ! 

Us ne reviendront plus, et faut-il te 1'ecrire ! 
Ces jours si tot passes et passes a jamais, 
Ces jours purs et sereins, tes baisers, ton sourire, 
Et jusqu'a tes pleurs que j'aimais. 

Alors, jeunes tous deux et sans inquietude, 
Et goutant du plaisir le charme empoisonneur, 
Ensemble nous cherchions Pombre et la solitude, 
Pour y cacher notre bonheur. 

Et maintenant, combien il fut court ce beau songe ! 
Et maintenant, helas ! separes pour toujours, 
Ce doux bonheur n'est plus qu'un aimable mensonge 
Qui caressa nos premiers jours.' 


' Reveuse et dont la main balance 
Un vert et flexible rameau, 
D'ou vient qu'elle pleure en silence 
La jeune fille du hameau ? 

Autour de son front je m'etonne 
De ne plus voir ses myrtes frais ; 
Sont-ils tombes aux jours d'automne 
Avec les feuilles des forets ? 

Tes compagnes sur la colline 
T'ont vue hier seule a genoux, 
O toi qui n'es point orpheline, 
Et qui ne priais pas pour nous ! 

Archange, 6 sainte messagere, 
Pourquoi tes pleurs silencieux ? 
Est-ce que la brise legere 
Ne veut pas t'enlever aux cieux ? 


Us coulent avec tant de grace, 
Qu'on ne salt, malgre ta paleur, 
S'ils laissent une amere trace, 
Si c'est la joie ou la douleur. 

Quand tu reprendras solitaire 
Ton doux vol, sceur d'Alaciel, 
Dis-moi, la clef de ce mystere 
L'emporteras-tu dans le ciel ? 

C'est PAnge envole que je pleure 
Qui m'eveillait en me baisant, 
Dans des songes eclos a 1'heure 
De Petoile et du ver luisant. 

Toi qui fus un si doux mystere, 
Fantome triste et gracieux, 
Pourquoi venais-tu sur la terre, 
Comme les Anges sont aux cieux ? 

Pourquoi dans ces plaisirs sans nombre, 
Oublis du terrestre sejour, 
Ombre reveuse, aimai-je une ombre 
Infideleal'aubedujour? 5 1 

In 1829, encouraged by his local successes, Bertrand 
decided to go to Paris. There is a sublime temerity 
about the way in which the provincial man of letters will 
set forth with sixpence in his pocket to seek fortune in 
the capital. Bertrand did not even take with him the 
commodity of good health, consumption had already laid 
its dread hands upon him. Victor Pavie, speaking of his 
first meeting with Bertrand in Paris, remarks on the 
husky voice betraying the delicate chest. 

In Paris he became acquainted with Nodier, V. Hugo, 
Sainte-Beuve, and David d'Angers. 

Victor Pavie, who met him at Nodier's house, describes 
him as : 

'A rather awkward young man, obviously provincial, speaking 
with a Burgundian accent, and with fiery eyes that betrayed the 
poet. In his face a kind of feverish dilettantism mingled with a 

1 The three last stanzas do not occur in Asselineau's edition. 


somewhat uncouth sullenness ; it was only too easy to recognise one 
of those victims of their ideals and caprices who are driven forth 
from their native provinces by incompatibility of race, and come to 
seek fortune and misery in Paris.' 

On this particular occasion, reading was the order 
of the evening. Bertrand delivered his contribution 
nervously, standing on one foot ' like a crane on one leg,' 
but with no less effect for that. It was a kind of ballad 
i carved like a chalice, coloured like a stained window, in 
which the rhymes rang like the notes of a Bruges peal,' 
and of which the striking feature was the recurrence of 
those two lines : 

' L'on entendait le soir sonner les cloches 
Du gothique couvent de Saint-Pierre de Loches.' 

When he had finished, seized with shyness, he went 
and hid himself in a corner by the window. It was Sainte- 
Beuve who sought him out and talked to him. The great 
critic with his insatiable interest in everything an ex- 
cellent thing in critics was immediately attracted by the 
originality of Bertrand who, in his turn, was grateful for 
the kindly attention, and it was to Sainte-Beuve in the 
first place that Bertrand carried his manuscript of Gaspard 
de la Nuit. 

After this famous evening, Bertrand disappeared for 
some months ; the next we hear of him is of his visiting 
Sainte-Beuve armed with the manuscript of Gaspard de la 
Nuit. A few days later David and Pavie went to visit 
Sainte-Beuve, and found him surrounded with leaves of 
this manuscript of which he spoke with the greatest 
enthusiasm. He read to his visitors ' Le Maon/ 
1 Harlem,' * La Viole de Gamba,' * Padre Pugnaccio,' 
and ' L'Alchimiste.' ' Nous sortimes de chez lui avec 
des bluettes sur les yeux,' says Pavie. 

Eugene Renduel, the publisher, was also seized with 
the same enthusiasm, and consented to publish the manu- 
script. He planned an edition de luxe ; Victor Pavie has 


described how it was to have been. There were to be 
illustrations suited to the subjects : 

' Cranes and storks with wings entangled were to embroider the 
azure margins, whereon will-o'-the-wisp would be seen caught in a 
witch's hair ; the earth was to have been seen as a corolla with the 
moon for pistil and the stars for stamens; and at the bottom very 
far away the immortal shadow of Jacquemart showing its profile 
in the dusk.' 

But these projects were too magnificent, the publication 
was continually being put off, and in the meantime 
Bertrand had returned to Dijon, where from 1831-35 
he and Charles Brugnot directed their newspaper the 
Patriote de la Cote d'Or. In 1835 he came back to 
Paris and obtained there the post of secretary to the 
Count Roedecker, an occupation so little suited to his 
temperament that he soon gave it up. 

As we have said, he was consumptive, and now he fell 
into deep poverty ever the worst of remedies for any 
disease, and went wandering about Paris from attic to 
garret till, in 1841, he was taken in at the Necker Hospice 
and after a few weeks died there. 

It was in this hospital that chance again brought him 
into contact with David d'Angers. The great sculptor 
had been attracted by Bertrand's talent ever since that 
visit to Sainte-Beuve of which we have spoken. He had 
sought him out in Paris, but without success, and his 
intimate relations with Bertrand only began in those last 
six weeks in the hospital. Bertrand seems to have wished 
to die unrecognised and alone, like some poor animal 
who creeps away to a lonely spot for he had recognised 
David much earlier when he used to come to the hospital 
to visit a young friend of his ; but Bertrand hid his head 
under his sheet in order not to be recognised, till later on 
his utter loneliness grew too strong he called David to 
his bedside. David obtained the sum of three hundred 


francs for him from the minister of public education and 
remained with him to the end, and buried him. Bertrand's 
last moments were cheered by this sympathetic presence ; 
up to the last he was making plans for the perfection and 
publication of his Gaspard de la Nuit.^ 

At the end of Gaspard de la Nuit we find these lines 
addressed to David ; they seem to us a fit epitaph for this 
pathetic life : 

* And I have prayed, loved and sung, a poor and suffering poet ! 
And it is in vain that my heart is overflowing with faith, love, and 

* I was born an abortive eaglet. The egg of my destinies, which 
the wings of prosperity never warmed, is as hollow, as empty as the 
Egyptian's golden nut. 

' Ah ! tell me then if so be thou knowest, man, that frail plaything 
cutting capers as he hangs from the string of his passions, is he 
nothing but a puppet worn out by life, broken by death ? ' 

After Bertrand's death David bought back the manu- 
script from Renduel, and undertook the publishing of it. 
Sainte-Beuve consented to write an introductory notice, 
and to Victor Pavie fell the share of printing it. 

' I will print it/ said Pavie. * I shall print it as it is, without 
ornaments, arebesques or ' ; vignettes. He has suffered all too much 
from all the vanity of these dilatory illustrations : a truce to all this 
grandeur and length ; besides he carries himself enough rubies and 
carbuncles to sparkle all alone, even in the night. I shall print it 
in our house whence his name will emanate with the perfume of 
a November violet, flower of graves, month of the dead. Louis 
Bertrand's cause is the provincial cause.' 

These lines are quoted from an article which Pavie 
probably wrote as a prospectus when he first thought of 
printing Gaspard de la Nuit. The article is not to be 
found at the beginning of his edition ; perhaps, having 
obtained Sainte-Beuve's article he feared to offend the 
great critic by inserting his own ; or, perhaps, he did not 

1 The museum of Angers possesses two drawings by David of Bertrand on his 


want to be eclipsed, in which last case his fear was 

The title-page of the first edition runs thus : 



A la maniere de Rembrandt et de Callot 

par Louis BERTRAND 

precede d'une notice 



Imprimerie Libraire de V. Pavie, Rue St. Laud, 

Paris chez Labitte, Quai Voltaire. 

1842. l 

The other editions of Gaspard de la Nuit are : 
Asselineau's, 1868, enlarged by the inclusion of some 
prose and verse pieces from the periodicals of the time. 
There was a de luxe edition of this with a frontispiece by 
Felicien Rops, edited by Poulet Malassis. In 1902 the 
Mercure de France republished the work in an ordinary 
paper edition. 

Let us now consider the work itself. Bertrand is a 
thoroughgoing Romantic, and all the romantic devices 
appeal to him ; for instance, he discarded the name of 
Louis and via that of Ludovic arrived finally at the im- 
posing Aloysius. He follows, too, the fashion of literary 
adoptions and presents us to the author of the Fantaisies 
as an old man he encountered one day in the Jardin de 
1'Arquebuse of Dijon. This old man was as like Bertrand 
as a brother would be, and in describing him Bertrand 
meant to paint his own portrait for us : 

' A poor wretch whose appearance told of distress and suffering. 
I had already noticed in the same garden his threadbare coat 
buttoned up to his chin ; his shapeless hat that no brush had ever 

1 This edition is exceedingly rare. 


touched; his long willowy hair, all bushy; his hands, fleshlessas a 
skeleton's; his quizzical, pitiful, sickly face, sharpened off by a 
Nazarenean beard, and my conjectures had charitably ranked him 
with those fifth-rate artists, violinists, portrait-painters, whom an 
insatiable hunger and inextinguishable thirst force to roam the world 
on the track of the wandering Jew.' 

This peculiar person begins a conversation, and enters 
upon a long disquisition on the question ' What is art?' 
In the course of it he carries us through old Dijon, a 
Dijon of the Middle Ages, as striking as the Gothic Paris 
of Victor Hugo. Bertrand possessed to an extraordinary 
extent the power of rendering the life and the atmosphere 
of the Middle Ages. As he himself says of his descriptions 
of old Dijon : * J'avais galvanise un cadavre et ce cadavre 
s'etait leve.' 

For him the sculpture of the Middle Ages lives. Here 
is one of his experiences as told by Gaspard de la Nuit 
in his conversation on art : 

' One day I was busying myself before the Church of Notre-Dame 
with considering Jacquemart and his wife and child striking midday. 
... A burst of laughter made itself heard high up, and in a corner 
of the Gothic building I caught sight of one of those monstrous 
figures that the sculptors of the Middle Ages fastened by their 
shoulders to the gutters of cathedrals ; a dreadful, accursed form, 
which, racked by suffering, thrust out its tongue, ground its teeth, 
wrung its hands. It was it that had laughed. . . . The stone figure 
had laughed a distorted, terrible infernal laugh, but which was 
sarcastic, incisive, picturesque.' 

This is the same Bertrand that we heard of keeping up 
a running conversation with a weathercock. 

Gaspard's conclusion on the subject of art is that it does 
exist : 

' Art exists but in the bosom of God ! We ourselves are but the 
copyists of the Creator. The most magnificent, triumphal, and 
glorious of our works is never more than the unworthy imitation of 
His immortal works. All originality is an eaglet which breaks 
through its shell only in the sublime and fulminating atmosphere of 


Sinai. Long did I seek for absolute art. Delirium ! madness ! 
Look on this forehead wrinkled by the iron crown of misfortune. 
Thirty years, and the secret for which I begged so hard from so 
many stubborn folk, to which I sacrificed youth, love, pleasure, 
fortune, the secret lies insensible as the common stone amidst the 
ashes of my illusions/ 

Which conclusion is Romanticism again a la Chateau- 

The discourse finished, Gaspard de la Nuit gets up to 
go ; as he leaves he gives Bertrand a manuscript to read 
which he says will show him how many brushes he wore 
out on the canvas before he saw the vague dawn of half 
light. At the beginning of this manuscript is written 
Gaspard de la Nuit, Fantaisies a la maniere de Rem- 
brandt et de Callot. Having read it Bertrand wishes to 
return it to its owner, but although he seeks him every- 
where can never find him. The reason is simple when 
you know it, simply that Gaspard de la Nuit is the Devil, 
on which discovery Bertrand very properly determines to 
publish the manuscript. 

Such is the story of the introduction. In the little 
Preface before the Fantaisies Bertrand explains his 
aim : 

' Art has always two antithetical aspects, like, for example, a medal 
one side of which bears striking resemblance to Paul Rembrandt, 
and the reverse to Jacques Callot. Rembrandt is the white-bearded 
philosopher who withdraws like a snail into his shell, whose thought 
is all absorbed in meditation and prayer, his eyes shut to collect 
himself, who converses with the spirits of beauty and science, and 
who wears himself out trying to penetrate the mysterious symbols of 
Nature. Callot, on the contrary, is the blustering jovial soldier who 
struts round the square, makes disturbance in the taverns, kisses the 
gipsy girls, whose only oath is by his rapier and carbine, and who 
has no cares beyond that of waxing his moustache. Now the 
author of this book has looked at art in its double personification ; 
but he has not been too exclusive, and as well as fantasies in the 
manner of Rembrandt and Callot, you will find studies on Van 
Eyck, Lucas de Leyde, Albert Diirer, Pieter Neef, Breughel de 


Velours, Breughel d'Enfer, Van Ostade, Gerard Dow, Salvator Rosa, 
Murillo, Fusely, and several other masters of different schools.' 

We will begin then by considering the purely pictur- 
esque fantasies. This leads us at once to consider 
Bertrand's historical feeling. It was Michelet who, at a 
later date, said: * L'histoire est une resurrection,' and 
Bertrand understood history in just the same way. He 
has the power of making the Middle Ages live for us as 
they did for him. Take, for example, ' Harlem ' : 
' Quand d' Amsterdam le coq d'or chantera 
La poule d'or de Harlem pondera.' 

Les Centuries de Nostradamus. 

1 Harlem, that wonderful curious picture, which sums up all the 
Flemish School, Harlem as Jean Breughel, Peter Neef, David 
Teniers, and Paul Rembrandt painted it : 

* And the canal with its trembling blue water, the church with its 
stained glass window blazing like gold, and the stone balcony with 
the washing drying in the sun, and the roofs green with hops : 

'And the storks beating their wings round the town-hall clock, 
stretching their necks straight up into the air to catch the raindrops 
in their beaks : 

4 And the jolly old burgomaster stroking his double chin with his 
fat hand, and the florist in love with a flower growing thin, his eye 
fixed on a tulip : 

' And the gipsy girl in rapture over her mandoline ; and the old 
man playing the rommelpot, and the child blowing out a bladder : 

' And the carousers drinking in an evil tavern, and the inn-servant 
hanging up a dead pheasant at the window.' 

Or take the ' Ma9on ' which Sainte-Beuve chose to read 

Pavie and David : 


4 The Master-mason-. "See these bastions, these buttresses: one 
would say they had been built to last for ever" SCHILLER, Wilhelm 

1 The mason Abraham Knupfer sings, his trowel in his hand, on a 
scaffolding so high in the air that when he reads the gothic lines 
graven on the great bell his feet are on a level with the church and 
its thirty flying buttresses, and the town with its thirty churches. 


' He sees the stone gargoyles belching forth the water from the 
slate roof into the mazy abyss of galleries, windows, crotchets, 
pinnacles, turrets, roofs, scaffoldings, among which the jagged 
motionless wing of a hawk makes a grey spot. 

4 He sees the fortifications cut out in the form of a star, the citadel 
puffed out like a chicken in a pie, the courtyards of the palaces 
where the sun dries up the fountains, and the cloisters in the 
monasteries where the shadows circle round the pillars. 

* The imperial troops have their lodging in the suburb. Yonder 
is a trooper playing the kettledrum. Abraham Knupfer can make 
out his three-cornered hat, his red woollen shoulder-knots, his 
cockade, and his pigtail tied with ribbon. 

1 What he sees besides is the soldiers in the park with its plumes 
of great boughs. On a broad emerald-green lawn they riddle with 
bullets from their arquebuses a wooden bird fixed at the end of a 

' And that evening, while the harmonious cathedral nave slept its 
arms spread out in the form of a cross, from his ladder he saw on 
the horizon a village which the troopers had set on fire flaming like 
a comet in the azure.' 

Sainte-Beuve well called this the daguerreotype in 
literature. Victor Pavie remarked in Bertrand his 
' patient touch counting the leaves in the infinite.' 

This is just what the English pre-Raphaelites were to do 
later on in their reaction against Dr. Johnson's dictum 
(so admirably expressive of the eighteenth-century temper 
in these matters), that it was not necessary to paint the 
streaks of the tulip. 

One of the finest, if not the very finest example of 
Bertrand's picturesque style, is that called ' Le Soir sur 

* Bords ou Venise est reine de la mer.' 

' The black gondola glided past the marble palaces like a bravo in 
search of adventure hiding a stiletto and a lantern under his 

4 In it a cavalier and a lady talked of love. 

' " So heavy scented are the orange- trees, so indifferent are you. 
Ah, signorina, you are a statue in a garden." 


' " Is this kiss the kiss of a statue, my Georgio why so sullen ? 
You love me then ? " 

' " Not a star in heaven but knows it, and thou knowest it not ? " 

'What is that sound? Tis nothing only the plashing of the 
water as it goes up and down a step of the Giudecca staircase. 

' Help ! help ! Ah mother of God ! Some one drowning ! 

' " Stand aside, he is shriven ! " cried a monk who appeared upon 
the terrace. 

' And the black gondola putting off at full speed glided past the 
marble palace like a bravo returning from a night adventure, a 
stiletto and a lantern under his cloak.' 

We are reminded at once of Browning's * In a Gondola,' 
and the fact that he suggests this comparison is of itself 
a feather in Bertrand's cap. But the prose poem of 
Bertrand is unforgettable in its compressed vigour there 
is not one word too much ; whereas Browning has 
wandered into superfluous details, his poem is six times 
as long as Bertrand's sketch, and though interesting loses 
correspondingly in dramatic effect. 

And here again we see Bertrand's gift of ' presenting ' 
historical atmosphere. He makes us realise eighteenth- 
century Venice with its epicurean life, the gallantry of the 
Lido, the perpetual revelry leading sometimes to crime, 
as in the drama he has so powerfully painted here. ' Le 
Soir sur 1'Eau ' is indeed a masterpiece. 

We have already touched on Bertrand's imagination, 
his preference for weird subjects the gloom attracts him 
far more than the sunshine ; he ' preferred a Breughel 
to a Watteau, an Albert Diirer to a Delacroix, an etching 
of Rembrandt or Callot to all the sketches of Charlet, and 
all the vignettes of Tony Johannot.' 

And, as we have said, in his youth drawing was one 
of his favourite pastimes. There exists in the library of 
Angers (B. 1443, K. 453) a small book of sketches made 
by Bertrand to illustrate Gaspard de la Nuit. 1 This book, 

1 We are indebted to the librarian of Angers for his courtesy in showing us 
these drawings. 


which was given to the library of Angers by Madame 
Leferme, the daughter of David d'Angers, contains seven- 
teen sketches which come as a commentary on Bertrand's 
imagination. Three of these, probably meant to go with 
the fantasy ' Clair de Lime,' represent a hanged corpse 
with the moon for background. In the first, there is a bell 
of which the hanged corpse forms the clapper, and behind 
is the jovial face of the moon. In the next there is no 
bell, the corpse is hanging from a balcony, and in the 
distance are seen a church steeple and some chimneys. 
In the next, again, we have the hanged corpse with the 
moon as background. Here is the prose poem ' Clair de 

Lune' : 

' Reveillez-vous gens qui dormez, 
Et priez pour les trepasses.' 

1 Oh ! how sweet it is when the hour trembles in the belfry at night 
to gaze at the moon whose nose is fashioned like a golden carolus ! 

' Two lepers made plaint under my window, a dog howled in the 
road, and the cricket on my hearth chirped ever so softly. 

' But soon my ear made its questionings in profound silence. The 
lepers had gone back to their hovels at the strokes of Jacquemart 
beating his wife, 

' The dog had fled up a narrow lane at the approach of the halberds 
of the watch wheezing under the rain, and frozen in the blast. 

' And the cricket had fallen asleep as the last cinder quenched its 
last gleam in the ashes in the fireplace. 

'And to me it seemed, so incoherent is fever, that the moon 
screwing up her face put her tongue out at me like a hanged corpse.' 

Bertrand never quite lost his youthful predilection for 
hanged corpses they are as ubiquitous as the skull in 
Albert Dlirer whom he admired so much. 

' Le Cheval Mort ' is another good example of this side 
of his imagination : 

' The knacker's yard and on the left on a clovered lucern lawn, a 
cemetery with its gravestones; on the right a gallows like a one- 
armed man asking alms of the passers by. 

' The wolves have torn the flesh round the neck of that horse who 


was killed yesterday into such long cords that he still seems only 
decorated for the cavalcade with a cluster of red ribbons. 

'Each night as soon as the moon comes to make wan the skies, 
the corpse flies away, mounted by a witch who spurs him on with 
the sharp bone of her heel, while the wind plays airs upon the organ 
pipes in his cavernous flanks. 

' And if in this silent hour some sleepless eye were open in a grave 
in the garden of sleep, it would quickly close, fearful of seeing a 
spectre among the stars. 

* And now the moon, 1 shutting one eye, only shines with the other 
to light up, like a floating candle, this thin wastrel of a dog lapping 
water from a pond.' 

The same favourite idea recurs in ' LeGibet,' especially 
the last paragraph : ' C'est la cloche qui tinte aux murs 
d'une ville sous 1'horizon, et la carcasse d'un pendu que 
rougit le soleil couchant.' 

Yet another good specimen of this macabre kind is 
' Scarbo ' : 

' Oh ! how many times have I heard and seen Scarbo when at 
midnight the moon shines like a shield argent on an azure banner 
strewn with golden bees. 

' How many times have I heard his chuckle buzzing in the shadow 
of my alcove, and his nail grate over the silken curtains of my bed. 

* How many times have I seen him come down from the ceiling, 
pirouette on one toe and roll across the room like the spindle fallen 
off a witch's distaff. 

1 Did I think he disappeared then ? The dwarf grew tall between 
the moon and me as the steeple of a Gothic cathedral, a golden bell 
shaking at the tip of his pointed cap ! 

1 It will have been noticed that Bertrand had a great affection for the moon. 
He has many fancies on this subject : * La lune peignait ses cheveux avec un 
demeloir d'ebene qui argentait d'une pluie de vers luisants les collines, les pres 
et les bois.' ' La lune qui a le nezfait comme un carolus d'or.' ' La lune brille 
dans le ciel comme un ecu d'argent sur une banniere d'azur semee d'abeilles d'or.' 

He also represented his guardian angel keeping off with a peacock's feather 
the spirits who would fain have stolen his soul : ' Pour la noyer dans un rayon 
de la lune ou dans une goutte de rosee.' 

One of the finest of Baudelaire's Potmes en Prose is the ' Bienfaits de la Lune,' 
which was probably suggested by this feature in Bertrand. 



' But soon his body grew blue and diaphanous as candle wax, his 
face wan as a snuffed candle, and suddenly he went out.' 

There is another ' Scarbo ' in that part of the Fan- 
taisies entitled ' La Nuit et ses prestiges,' which is very 
Poesque : 

* " Whether thou die absolved or damned," muttered Scarbo in 
mine ear last night, " for shroud thou shalt have a spider's web, and 
I will bury the spider with thee." 

* My eyes red with weeping, I answered him : " At least give me for 
shroud a leaf of the aspen, that I may be therein rocked by the 
lake's breath." 

' " No," sneered the mocking dwarf, " thou shalt be the food of the 
horn-beetle who hunts by night, of the flies blinded by the setting 

' " Dost thou prefer," I cried tearfully, "dost thou then prefer that 
my blood should be sucked by a tarantula with the trunk of an 
elephant ? " 

'"Well," said he, "be consoled, thou shalt have for shroud the 
gold spotted winding-sheet of a serpent's skin, and I will swathe 
thee therein like a mummy. . . ." ' 

The last drawing in the book to which we have referred 
seems to illustrate this. It represents a bed on which a 
man is lying swathed in bands like a mummy ; the drawing 
of the man is made separately, then cut out and pasted 
on the bed. 

It was not only in his sleep that Bertrand was haunted 
by such curious fancies as he describes in Un Reve ; 
another equally weird is that which he puts under the 
Flemish school, Depart pour le Sabbat. 

Here is the dream : 

' It was night, there were first, so did I see, so do I tell, an 
abbey with walls creviced by the moon, a forest pierced by winding 
paths and Morimont 1 swarming with cloaks and hats. 

'Next there were, as I heard so do I tell, the funeral tolling of 
a bell answered by sobs from a cell, plaintive cries and fierce 
laughter which made every leaf on the boughs quiver, and the low 

1 Morimont was the square in Dijon where executions took place. 


hum of the black penitent's prayers, as they accompanied a criminal 
to execution. 

'Lastly, so did the dream end, and so do I tell it, a monk 
expiring on a bed of ashes used for the dying, a maiden hanged 
from the branches of an oak, and who struggled, and I dishevelled, 
whom the executioner bound on to the spokes of a wheel.' 

The fifteenth drawing in Bertrand's book represents 
the forest of the first paragraph a very black drawing 
(Ecole Flamande) Depart pour le Sabbat. 

' A dozen of them were there taking their soupe a la btire, and 
each had for spoon a skeleton forearm. 

' The hearth was red with glowing cinders, the candles guttered 
in the smoke, and from the plates rose an odour of graves at 

' And when Maribas laughed or wept it was like a bow groaning 
upon the three strings of a dislocated violin. 

''But the trooper opened out upon the table by the candle light a 
book of magic whereon a singed fly made antics. 

* This fly was still buzzing when a spider with great hairy belly 
climbed over the edge of the magic volume. 

' But already wizards and witches had flown up the chimney all 
riding astride, some on the broom, some on the tongs, and Maribas 
on the frying-pan handle.' 

So much then for the macabre. There is yet another 
side to Bertrand's talent that of painting Nature. In the 
Introduction he says : 

1 That part of art which is feeling was my painful conquest . . . 
but that part of art which is idea still lured my curiosity. I thought 
I should find the complement of art in nature. Therefore I studied 

Not only he studied Nature he loved her, and his love 
shows itself from time to time in his work with charming 
effect, < Who does not love ? ' 

'Qui n'aime?' he asks at the opening of his Marquis 


1 Qui n'aime, aux jours de la canicule, dans les bois, lorsque les 
gens criards se disputent la ramee et 1'ombre, un lit de mousse et 
la feuille a 1'envers du chene ? ' 

Chevremorte too is full of his feeling for Nature : 

* No balm at morn after the rain, nor at eve at dew time, nothing 
to charm the ear but the cry of a little bird in search of a blade of 

' Desert that no longer hears the voice of John the Baptist ! Desert 
where no longer dwell the hermit and the dove. 

'Even so is my soul a waste, where on the brink of the abyss, one 
hand stretched out towards life, and the other towards death, I utter 
a despairing sob. The poet is like the wallflower which takes root 
in the granite, and asks not so much for soil as for sun. But, alas, 
there is no more sun for me since the closing of those sweet eyes 
that fed my genius.' 

This is Romantic too just as is the voluntary melan- 
choly of Encore un printemps. 

'Another spring, another drop of dew cradled for a moment in 
this bitter calyx, to escape from it like a tear. 

'O my youth ! thy joys were frozen by the kisses of Time, but 
thy sorrows have out-lived Time whom they smothered in their 

' And you who wove the silken skein of my life, O women ! if in 
my romance some one acted as deceiver it was not I if there have 
been some deceived, it was not you. 

' O Spring, thou little bird of passage, singing sadly in the poet's 
heart and the oak's foliage. 

'Another spring another ray of May sunshine, in the world on 
the poet's brow, in the woods on the old oak.' 

Another vivid picture is that of the storm in La Ronde 
sous la Cloche. 

' Suddenly the thunder growled on the top of Saint John's. The 
enchanters vanished, struck to death, and from afar I saw their 
books of magic burning like a torch in the black belfry. 

'This terrible light painted the walls of the Gothic church with the 


red flames of purgatory and hell, and threw along the neighbouring 
houses the shadow of the gigantic statue of Saint John. 

'The weathercocks grew rust-laden ; the moon melted the pearl 
grey clouds, the rain only fell drop by drop from the roof-edges, and 
the breeze, throwing open my insecurely fastened window, flung over 
my pillow the jasmine flowers shaken down by the storm.' 

Sainte-Beuve in his criticism of Bertrand quotes an 
unpublished fragment which is a very lively picture of 
the life in a farm near Dijon, where Bertrand took refuge 
from a storm one night. 

' Quelles honnetes figures dans ces rayons de toile cou- 
leur de terre. Ah ! la paix et le bonheur ne sont qu'aux 
champs ! ' he exclaims. Sainte-Beuve compares this 
fragment to Burns's * Cottar's Saturday Night,' and this 
leads us to an interesting point. We are accustomed to 
go to poets like Burns, or Cowper, or Gilpin when we 
are a little tired of the demands made on our imagination 
by the more exciting romantic poets, and turn for relief to 
simple yet lively quiet, peaceful pictures. But to find the 
two opposed tempers in one and the same poet, and that 
a poet of the French Romantic era, is indeed a striking 
thing. Bertrand half apologises for his sketch by com- 
paring it with a Rembrandt picture ; but the quiet temper 
is there, explain it away as he will. 

In spite of the originality of this side of his work, it is 
probably by the other, the macabre and picturesque side, 
that Bertrand will be remembered, if remembered he is. 
Fame did not come to him in his lifetime, and so far he 
has escaped his share of posthumous glory. There is a 
good deal of Hoffmann in Bertrand. It lay outside the 
scope of this study to consider the debt of Poe to 
Hoffmann. Barbey d'Aurevilly said well of them, that 
they were ' les deux Chinois du meme opium,' and there 
is much Poe in Baudelaire. So would we justify Ber~ 
trand's place in the category of Baudelairians. 



PETRUS BOREL is one of Baudelaire's predecessors who 
deserves to be very much better known than he is ; he is 
more forgotten than Bertrand, for hitherto his work has 
not been reprinted and reissued in accessible form. 

The first and perhaps greatest of the race of eccentrics 
who appear with the Romantic School was born at Lyons 
in 1809 one of an extremely poor family of fourteen 
children. He was brought up to be an architect and 
came to Paris to complete his studies, but he soon tired 
of architecture, and after trying his hand at painting in 
the studio of Eugene Deveria, turned to literature. He 
was the star of the l Petit Cenacle ' which Theophile 
Gautier has portrayed so well for us in his Histoire du 
Romantisme, a cenacle which included Theophile Gautier 
himself, Gerard de Nerval, Augustus MacKeat, 1 Philothee 
O'Neddy, 2 Jules Vabre. An important factor in Borel's 
ascendancy here seems to have been his startlingly 
picturesque appearance. Gautier called him 'the most 
perfect specimen of the romantic ideal.' 

M. Claretie (who is the authority on Borel) has 
described his appearance for us. He wore 

( a waistcoat a la Robespierre, on his head the conventional 
pointed hat with its large buckle, his hair short a la Titus, a long 
untouched beard and that at a moment when no one wore it so 
superb eyes, magnificent teeth, as handsome as Alphonse Rabbe, 
that other revoltl vi\\.Q was called the Antinous of Aix.' 

1 i.e. Maquet. 2 Theophile Dondey. 


It was this appearance, so the story goes, which 
frightened the inhabitants of Ecouny when Borel and 
a friend, got up in the same manner, passed through. 
They were followed, arrested, and imprisoned for a few 
days while the necessary inquiries were made. In 1832 
Borel was again arrested by the police. 

' What do you want with me ? ' he asked. < What 
have I done to be arrested ? ' 

1 Sir,' was the reply, ' pretence is useless vous avez la 
demarche republicaine ! ' 

As a matter of fact, Borel called himself a republican 
but a * lycanthrope ' republican that is his originality. 

1 Yes, I am a republican, but it was not the July sun that brought 
forth this lofty thought in me. I was a republican from my child- 
hood, but not republican in the sense in which the lynx would 
understand it ; my republicanism is lycanthropy. ... If I talk of 
Republic it is because this word represents for me the greatest 
independence civilisation and association can allow us.' 

Here is the Baudelairian enemy of progress. 

Borel's first writings were some poems which, con- 
sidering the period in which he was writing, are, of 
course, deeply pessimistic ; but here again he is original, 
the despondent note rings true, he was at all events 

* Comme une louve ayant fait chasse vaine, 
Gringant les dents, s'en va par le chemin, 
Je vais, hagard tout charge de ma peine, 
Seul avec moi, nulle main dans ma main, 
Pas une voix qui me disc A demain ! . . . 

Ma jeunesse me pese et devient importune. 
Ah ! que n'ai-je du moins le calme du vieillard ? 
Qu'ai-je k faire ici has ? trainer dans 1'infortune ! 
Lache, rompons nos fers ! . . . ou plus tot ou plus tard. 
Mes pistolets sont Ik dtjouons le hasard? 

Or the rebellious pessimism of * Doleance ' : 


* Autour de moi ce n'est que palais, joie immonde, 

Biens, somptueuses nuits, 
Avenir, gloire, honneurs : au milieu de ce monde, 

Pauvre et souffrant je suis 
Comme entoure des grands, du roi de saint office, 

Sur le quemadero, 
Tous en pourpre assembles pour humer un supplice, 

Un juif au brazero. 

Car tout m'accable enfin, neant, misere, envie 

Vont morcelant mes jours ; 
Mes amours brochaient d'or le crepe de ma vie. 

Desormais plus d'amours ! ' 

He comes back to this idea in his Testament when he 
writes : 

' Chanter 1'amour ! . . . pour moi Tamour c'est de la haine, des 
gemissements, des cris, de la honte, du deuil, du fer, des larmes, 
du sang, des cadavres, des ossements, des remords je n'en ai pas 
connu d'autre.' 

And here are some striking lines from ' L'Hymne au 
Soleil ' :- 

4 La dans ce sentier creux, promenoir solitaire 

De mon clandestin mal, 
Je viens tout souffreteux et je me couche a terre, 

Comme un brute animal. 
Je viens avouer ma faim, la tete sur la pierre, 

Appeler le sommeil ; 
Pour etancher un peu ma brulante paupiere 

Je vais user mon dcot de soleil. 

Lk-bas dans la cite', 1'avarice sordide 

Des chefs sur tout rempart 
Au mouton peuple vend le soleil et le vide. 

J'ai paye, j'ai ma part. 

Mais sur tous, tous egaux devant toi, soleil juste, 

Tu verses tes rayons, 
Qui ne sont pas plus doux au front d'un sire auguste, 

Qu'au sale front d'une gueuse en haillons.' 

And here again is a poignant accent of sincerity : 



* J'ai caresse la mort riant au suicide, 
Souvent et volontiers quand j'etais plus heureux ; 
Maintenant je la hais et d'elle suis peureux, 
Miserable et mime par la faim homicide. 
C'est un oiseau, le barde : il doit rester sauvage ; 
La nuit sous la ramure, il gazouille son chant ; 
Le canard tout boueux se pavane au rivage, 
Saluant tout soleil, ou levant ou couchant. 
C'est un oiseau, le barde ! il doit vieillir austere, 
Sob re, pauvre, ignore, farouche, soucieux, 
Ne chanter pour aucun et n'avoir rien sur terre 
Qu'une cape trouee, un poignard et les cieux ! 
Mais le barde aujourd'hui, c'est une voix de femme, 
Un habit bien collant, un minois relave, 
Un perroquet juche, chantonnant pour madame, 
Dans une cage d'or un canari prive. 
C'est un gras merveilleux versant de chaudes larmes, 
Sur des maux obliges apres un long repas, 
Portant un parapluie et jurant par ses armes 
Et Pelixir en main, invoquant le trepas. 
Joyaux, bal, fleur, cheval, chateau, fine maitresse, 
Sont les mate'riaux de ses poemes lourds : 
Rien pour la pauvrete, rien pour Phumble en detresse.' 

This is already highly original in the full swing of the 
Romantic movement. 

In the verse Preface to his novel Madame Putiphar, 
Borel was to make a new departure with his symbolic 
figures of the World, Solitude, and Death. The concep- 
tion is Baudelairian ; it was used over and over again 
while its originator was forgotten. We quote part of 
this Preface : 

' Une douleur renait pour une evanouie 
Quand un chagrin s'eteint c'est qu'un autre est eclos ; 
La vie est une ronce aux pleurs epanouie. . . . 
Dans ma poitrine sombre ainsi qu'en un champ clos, 
Trois braves cavaliers se heurtent sans relache. 

Le premier cavalier est jeune, frais, alerte, 

II porte elegamment un corselet d'acier, 

Scintillant a travers une resille verte, 

Comme a travers les pins les crystaux d'un glacier. 


Le second chevalier, ainsi qu'un reliquaire, 
Est juchd gravement sur le dos d'un mulct 
Qui ferait le bonheur d'un gothique antiquaire. 

II est gros, gras, poussif ; son aride monture 
Sous lui semble craquer et pencher en aval : 
Une vraie antithese une caricature 
De careme-prenant promenant carnaval ! 
II est tache de sang et baise un crucifix. . . . 

Pour le tiers cavalier, c'est un homme de pierre 
Semblant le Commandeur, horrible et tenebreux 
Un hyperboreen ; un gnome sans paupiere, 
Sans prunelle et sans front, qui resonne le creux, 
Comme un tombeau vide lorsqu'une arme le frappe.' 

The first cavalier is the World, the second is Solitude, 
the last is Death, p and the conclusion of the Preface is that 

' II n'est de bonheur vrai, de repos qu'en la fosse ; 
Sur la terre on est mal, sous la terre on est bien.' 

The most considerable part of Borel's work is, however, 
not his poems, but his prose his Contes Immoraux (1833) 
and the long novel Madame Putiphar (1839). 

The first of the Contes Immoraux, ' Monsieur de 1'Argen- 
terie 1'Accusateur,' is characteristic a great deal of 
sensation and not very much art. It is the story of a 
woman who is condemned to death by the very man who 
has been the cause of her undoing. The description of 
the execution in the rain, with the crowd who have come 
to look on, the Englishman who has paid five hundred 
francs for a window, the women who call out 'a bas les 
parapluies, on ne voit pas soyez galants, messieurs, 
on ne voit pas ! ' in its thoroughly Baudelairian temper, 
reminds us of that tale of Villiers de 1'Isle Adam Le 
convive des dernier es fetes : 

The second story ' Jacquez Barraou ' is a very romantic 
study of jealousy. Jacquez Barraou is mistakenly 
jealous of his wife on account of a certain Juan Cazador 


(Borel's heroes always have magnificent names). By 
feigning drunkenness he is able to discover the perfidy of 
Cazador. The result is a duel, in the midst of which the 
Angelus rings, whereupon the two antagonists fall on 
their knees and each prays for the other's soul. That 
process finished they turn back to their duel to the death. 
In this tale, too, Borel shows that for him also the 
romantic exotism has its attraction. This is the description 
of Barraou's wife : 

' Oh ! how beautiful she seemed ! She was slim, gay, laughing ; 
her complexion that which comes of mixed races, and which you 
contemptuously call mulatto ; her features were delicate with the 
profile of an Artesian woman ; her bright eyes were almond shaped. 
Around her head she had gracefully bound a muslin turban ; coral 
earrings swung from her ears ; a necklace of Venetian ramina made 
a golden base to the graceful sweep of her beautiful neck; her 
tapering fingers were imprisoned in costly rings.' 

This exotic taste is to be found again in an article Borel 
wrote on Algeria (1845) for him all good things come 
from the East. (In passing one may remark that 
Flaubert seems to have held a similar idea : not only 
are the subjects of the Tentation de St. Antoine, Salammbo, 
Herodias oriental, but contain profound psychology of 
the Eastern peoples, and wonderful splendour of Oriental 
description). Here are Borel's words : 

1 All dreams, all religion, all philosophy, are known to come to us 
from the East. The Asiatics of India are the only men on earth 
who have dreamed and imagined. We sons of the West and North 
have never had other goods than actuality and speed, and more so 
to-day than ever, and we think our task well fulfilled when our feet 
and not our brains have moved and performed their functions for 
twenty-four hours. 

'Certainly you could travel throughout France without finding 
with the exception of a few quite young pastoral poets looked on 
askance by their families a single man seated in the shade of an 
elm to watch the scintillations of Venus or Canopa, or counting the 


fibres of the lotus-flower like a Hindu, or drinking in the perfumes 
of the amra.' 

He carries his enthusiasm to the point of believing that 
the French settlement in Africa will have a great salutary 
influence on French literature : 

* There is perhaps no thought, no idea on earth, but of which the 
germ is to be found on the banks of the Ganges. It is to Asia that 
the whole of our romance of the seven sages belongs ; she it was who 
modified our romances of chivalry. .\ . And such is the strength, 
the potentiality of Asiatic and African conception, that it is im- 
possible to approach our poor black slaves without becoming 
impregnated with caprice, without thawing the ice of our cool 
reason, and of our minds wise and prudent even to stiffness.' 

In his * Dina ' Borel created quite a Baudelairian figure 
we should not be surprised to meet her in a novel of 

' Rendered depraved by pain she sought with eagerness anything 
that might awaken her apathy ; she loaded herself with the most 
heavy-scented flowers, surrounded herself with vases filled with 
syringa, jasmine, vervein, roses, lilies, and tuberoses; she burnt 
incense of benzoin; she scattered round her amber, cinnamon, storax, 
musk. . . .' 

We can imagine the approval with which Baudelaire 
would have heard this. 

The most romantic, the most exaggerated and the most 
entertaining of the tales is ' Passereau 1'Ecolier.' 

Passereau believing himself to be deceived by his 
mistress, Philogene, wishes to be finished with life. So he 
goes off to the public executioner and explains : 

' I have come to ask a service of you. I have come to beg you 
very humbly (I should be very grateful for this favour) to do me the 
honour, and the friendly act of guillotining me ! ' 

The executioner explains his inability to render this 
service to persons other than those who have committed 
a crime. Passereau comes away determined to commit 


the necessary crime. On arriving home he draws up a letter 
to the Government suggesting a tax on would-be suicides, 
and then makes an appointment with Philogene. They 
go for a walk in a deserted part of Paris, and Passereau 
begins to feel ill. Philogene begs him to return home, 
and Passereau then asks her to go to the fruit-trees at the 
end of a long dark alley where they are, and bring him 
fruit to quench his thirst. We give the denouement in 
Borel's own words : 

' Philogene had only taken a few steps when she disappeared in 
the darkness. Passereau stretched himself full length on the ground, 
putting his ear to the earth and listened in terrible anxiety. 

'Suddenly Philogene uttered a piercing shriek, and a dull thud was 
heard like that of a human body falling, a great splashing of 
disturbed water, and groans which seemed to come from under- 
ground. Then Passereau got up with demoniacal convulsions, and 
hastened as fast as he could along the path by the raspberry bushes. 
As he approached the cries became more and more distinct " Help ! 
Help!" Suddenly he stopped, knelt down, and leant on a level with 
the ground over a large well. 

' Right at the bottom the water was moving ; from time to time 
something white reappeared on the surface, and exhausted cries 
escaped. "Help, help, Passereau, I am drowning!" Crouching, in 
silence, he listened without answering, just as leaning over a balcony 
one listens to some distant melody. . . . 

1 Philogene . . . was still floating on the surface, tearing away the 
worn brickwork with her nails. Then Passereau, with a great effort 
tore up the broken stones round the well's margin, and threw them 
down upon her one by one. 

' All was once more silent, mournful as a funereal vision ; all night 
he passed up and down under the willows.' 

Baudelaire remembered this tale in connection with the 
drama he once meditated writing. Here is the description 
he gave of his hero's crime in a letter to Tisserant, 1854 : 

' Here is the scene of the crime. Note that it is already 
premeditated. The man comes first to the rendezvous. The place 
has been chosen by him. Sunday evening. A dark road or open 


place. In the distance the sound of a string band. Sinister and 
melancholy scenery in the neighbourhood of Paris. Love scene 
as sad as possible between this man and woman ; he wants to be 
forgiven and really softens ; in spite of the fact that she feels all 
her old affection reawakening, the woman refuses. This refusal 
irritates her husband who puts it down to an adulterous passion, or 
the command of a lover. / must end this> yet I shall never have 
the courage, I cannot do that myself. An idea of genius, full of 
cowardice and superstition, comes to him. 

' He feigns sickness, which is not difficult, his real emotion helps 
him : Look, down there at the end of that little lane to the left 
you will find an apple-tree go and get me an apple (of course he 
can find some other pretext I only jot down that one as I go). 
The night is very dark, the moon is hidden. As soon as his wife is 
lost to view in the shadow he gets up from the stone he was seated 
upon : "By the grace of God I If she escapes so much the better ! If 
she falls in, it is God condemning her/" 

* He has shown her the road where she will find a well almost level 
with the ground. 

'The sound of a heavy body falling into the water is heard but 
preceded by a cry, and the cries continue. 

1 What is to be done some one may come ; I may be taken, I 
shall be taken for the assassin. Besides she is condemned. . . . 
Ah ! there are the stones, the stones at the edge of the well. 

4 He disappears running. 

* Empty scene. 

k While the noise of the falling bricks swells the cries decrease. 
They cease. The man reappears : "I am free I Poor angel, how 
she must have suffered" ' * 

In Madame Putiphar Borel again touches the high- 
water mark of Romanticism ; but there are some fine 
things in the book. We have already quoted the verse 
Preface, so pass straightway to make a short resume of 
the tale. 

1 Cp. Flturs du Mai. 

' Je 1'ai jetee au fond d'un puits, 
Et j'ai mcme pousse sur elle 
Tous les paves de la margelle ; 
Je 1'oublierai si je le puis ! ' 


Deborah, the daughter of Lord and Lady Cockermouth, 
is in love with Patrick Fitzwhyte. The parents do not 
approve of her passion, and remorselessly separate the 
two lovers, who naturally decide to escape together. 

Lord Cockermouth, however, discovers their conspiracy 
just in time to follow the fugitives with some of his 
companions. They attack the figure they suppose to be 
Patrick and seriously wound it, only to discover that they 
have got Deborah. The two lovers manage to make an 
arrangement by which it is agreed that Patrick shall 
make his escape to Paris, to be followed by Deborah as 
soon as her wounds are healed. Patrick is to write his 
address in Paris on the fa9ade of the Louvre facing the 
Seine near the sixth pillar. The device works well, and 
Deborah and Patrick meet again in Paris. In the mean- 
time, Patrick has been condemned for having murdered 
Deborah, and as his regiment in Paris hear of this, and 
since the colonel of the regiment has fallen in love with 
Deborah, difficulties arise. 

Next, a brother officer and friend of Patrick's is con- 
victed of having written a libel against Madame Putiphar 
(i.e. Madame de Pompadour) ; he is imprisoned in the 
Bastille, and Patrick takes it upon himself to go to 
Madame de Pompadour to ask for a pardon for his 

Madame Putiphar at once falls in love with Patrick, 
who finds a truly original way of responding to her 
advances. He goes into the library, takes down La Nou- 
velle Heloise and shows Madame Putiphar the passage 
where it is said : ' La femme d'un charbonnier est plus 
estimable que la maitresse d'un roi.' It is then Patrick's 
turn to be thrown into the Bastille, and Deborah is sent 
to the king. 

In prison Patrick finds his friend, and the sufferings of 
these two are described with Poesque power it is really 


In the meantime Deborah has had a son, whom she 
brings up with the sole idea of making him avenge her 

When this son is old enough she sends him to her old 
enemy the colonel of Patrick's regiment, telling him to 
avenge his father. The boy insults the colonel, who 
kills him in a duel, puts the corpse on his horse and sends 
it back to Deborah. This, as Baudelaire remarked, is 
one of the most powerful scenes in the book youthful 
courage stricken down at the first blow, and the annihila- 
tion of all the fond mother's schemes and hopes. 

In the succeeding chapters, too, Borel again shows his 
real gifts in his vivid picture of the Revolution. Through 
all this time, Deborah's one aim has become to find her 
husband. In the end she is successful ; she discovers him 
in prison he is now quite old. Deborah embraces him, 
but he does not know her, nor can he be made to under- 
stand ; under all his manifold sufferings his reason has 
given way he is quite mad. When Deborah becomes 
convinced of the terrible truth, she falls down dead. So 
ends this long novel. It is a work very characteristic of 
Borel, showing his morbid tendency, his exaggeration, 
his love of melodramatic effect, and also his power of 
description and of conceiving dramatic effects. 

Borel busied himself also with journalism ; he, too, like 
Baudelaire later, wrote for U Artiste. He, too, has an 
insatiable curiosity, which helps him on very much in his 
journalistic labours, and engenders in him all Merimee's 
love of the small, telling detail. Thus in his Vert Galant 
(which is little more than a list of Henry iv's mistresses), 
he tells us that the Comtesse de Chateaubriand had some- 
thing of a squint, that the Duchesse d'Etampes' walk was 
in reality a waddle, that Diane de Poitiers' right arm was 
longer than her left, and so on and so forth. 

He also wrote the History of Footwear ancient and 
modern, wherein he traces the history of cobblers, begin- 


ning by interesting himself in the etymology of the word 
cordonnier : 

1 On distinguait alors ceux qui faisaient les chaussures, en byzamiers 
et en cordonniers selon le cuir qu'ils travaillent. C'est du mot cor- 
douaner qu'a ete fait a la longue et par une prononciation adoucie 
notre barbarisme cordonnier. 3 

Nor does he omit the witty solution of this problem cors 

Then he makes a list of all the shoemakers who 
achieved fame : 

'Jean Baptiste Gilla, Florentine shoemaker and author of very 
good dialogues in the manner of Lucian ; Francis Sforza ; Hans 
Sachs ; Svendembourg ; Iphicrates, and the Jew shoemaker who 
refused help to Christ, saying to Him, " Walk on ! " ' 

This aspect of the subject is then left in order to con- 
sider the shoemaker's work, and here Borel describes for 
us every kind of footgear possible and impossible stopping 
to regret the loss of the famous botte a chaudron, that 
enormous boot that came half way up the body, and served 
the horseman as receptacle, desk, and cupboard for carry- 
ing utensils, provisions, and fresh ammunition. We can 
well believe that Borel regretted the disappearance of such 
a picturesque article of wear. 

He next proceeds to write what he calls Philologie 
Humoristique in the manner of Anatole France, and 
discusses the impossibility of reading souliers de verre 
in connection with Cinderella's slipper. In the Latin 
sources, he tells us, we shall find calceus varius, and not 
calceus mtreus, and yet at the Opera Comique this soulier 
vatrhas degenerated into soulier vert which is very good 

In an article entitled ' Reveries Ethnologiques ' Borel 
regrets that we cannot trace man through the ages in the 
same way as we can nouns ; this leads him to prove for 
us that the name Hetzel is the same as Attila, and this 



name Attila, ' at which the world grew pale,' means 
nothing more than ' partridge.' At the conclusion of 
this article he says : 

' The mountains, believe us, will eternally bring forth a mouse. 
. . . Conquerors, revolutions, will never make anything else but 
philology. The end and the beginning of all things is grammar.' 

But in the eyes of Parisian editors there was a great 
fault in Borel's writings his relentless pursuit of origin- 
ality at all costs even at that of puerility. Gradually 
his services became less and less in demand, and finally 
Borel found himself literally unable to obtain work in 
Paris. In 1846 Gautier obtained for him the post of 
inspector of colonisation in Algeria, whither he went 
accompanied by his wife and son. But even here ill- 
luck followed him, and for some reason (it is suggested 
on account of his persistence in drawing up his reports 
in verse) he was requested to tender his resignation. 
The last years of his life he spent working as a simple 
labourer, till in 1859, wearied out with his struggles, he 
allowed himself to die of hunger. 

So passed away one of the most flamboyantly pictur- 
esque figures of literature. 

It was well said by Baudelaire of Borel that he had 

' a colour of his own, a savour sui generis ; had he had only the 
charm of will, that in itself is a good deal ! But he had an 
enormous love of letters, and nowadays we are surrounded by 
charming tractable poets who are quite ready to betray the muse for 
a mess of pottage.' 

Equally true is Baudelaire's remark that without Borel 
there would be a gap in Romanticism. 

Whence comes it then that Petrus Borel's tales are so 
little known? For this reason, that they are not a true 
picture of life. Balzac, speaking of one of George Sand's 
novels, wrote with great justice : 


1 Jacques^ Mme. Dudevant's last book, is a counsel to husbands 
who are a nuisance to their wives to kill themselves in order to set 
them free. This book is false from end to end. ... All these 
authors build on unreality (courcnt dans le vide) founded on hollow- 
ness; there is nothing true. I prefer ogres, Tom Thumb, The 
Sleeping Beauty.' T 

In Borel there is too much of the exaggerated, ' mystify- 
ing ' side of Baudelaire, and it is that which, spite of all 
his talent, keeps him from holding a permanent place in 
our reading. 

1 Lettres ft F Etrangtrc. 



CRITICS, speaking of Gautier in connection with Baude- 
laire, have said over and over again, ' II rendit possible 
Baudelaire.' The Fleurs du Mai are, dedicated to Gautier, 
and the standard edition appeared as it were under the 
protection of Gautier, ushered in by one of the best of his 
critical studies as Preface, and in which he speaks of his 
friendship with Baudelaire : * A friendship was formed 
between us in which Baudelaire always kept up the 
attitude of a favourite disciple towards a sympathetic 

Thus in any study of the literary influences undergone 
by Baudelaire we may not absolutely neglect Gautier. 
But as soon as we come to study the question closely we 
see that the debt here is far from considerable. 

Let us then seek resemblances between the two writers 
in the first place. Gautier said of himself : 

1 1 have spent my life in the pursuit of Beauty under all its 
Protean aspects, for the purpose of portraying it, and I have found 
it only in nature and art. Man is ugly, always and everywhere ; 
he is only valuable in his intellect.' And he goes on to say : ' It 
is not nature that must be rendered, but the appearance, the 
physiognomy of nature. Therein lies all art.' 

Baudelaire holds the same view ; he writes in his Conseils 
auxjeunes litterateurs : 

4 Eugene Delacroix once said to me : " Art is so delicate and so 
fugitive that our utensils are never clean enough, our means never 
sufficiently expeditious." It is the same with literature, and there- 
fore I am not too great a partisan of nature; she disturbs the mirror 
of thought,' 


Baudelaire's ideal of beauty is very high ; neither he 
nor Gautier admire that accessible Beauty the ideal of 
the man in the street. As Baudelaire says : ' I only 
ask for beauty, it is true, but for me she must be so 
perfect that I shall probably never meet her.' 

Gautier, in so far as he was one of the leaders of the 
French Romantic movement is full of exotism. He says : 
' We are not Frenchmen, we ! we tend towards other 
races ! We are full of nostalgic longings.' 

The last sentence applies singularly well to the case of 
Baudelaire, who regards the world as one vast hospital, 
where each invalid is haunted by the desire to change the 
position of his bed. 

We have seen, too, how Baudelaire's early travels 
bring an exotic note into his work ; it is by this trait that 
he is connected with the Romantic school, and it is 
possible that Gautier also influenced him on this point. 

In Gautier we have already a poet suffering from the 
Baudelairian ennui; it would perhaps be more correct to 
say from the Romantic ennui, which is not quite the same 
thing, since it springs from a different cause. We quote a 
good example of this humour from Gautier's ' Theba'ide' : 

1 Mon reve le plus cher et le plus caresse, 
Le seul qui rit encore a mon coeur oppresse, 
C'est de m'ensevelir au fond d'une chartreuse, 
Dans une solitude inabordable, affreuse ; 
Loin, bien loin, tout la-bas dans quelque sierra, 
Bien sauvage, ou jamais voix d'homme ne vibra. 

De mon coeur depeuple je fermerais la porte, 
Et j'y ferais la garde, afin qu'un souvenir 
Du monde des vivants n'y put pas revenir. . . . 
Je suis las de la vie et ne veux pas mourir. 
Mes pieds ne peuvent plus ni marcher ni courir . . . 
. . . je suis une lampe sans flamme, 
Et mon corps est vraiment le cercueil de mon ame. 

Ne plus penser, ne plus aimer, ne plus hair ! 
Si dans le coin du cceur il eclot un desir, 
Lui couper sans pitie ses ailes de colombe, 
Etre comme un cadavre &endu sous la tombe, 


Dans Timmobilite savourer lentement, 
Comme un philtre endormeur, 1'aneantissement, 
Voilk qui est mon voeu. 

C'est pourquoi je m'assieds au revers du fosse, 
Desabuse de tout, plus voute, plus casse 
Que ces chiens mendiants que jusqu'a la porte 
Le chien de la maison en grommelant escorte, 
C'est pourquoi fatigue d'errer et de gemir, 
Comme un petit enfant je demande a dormir, 
Je veux dans le neant renouveler mon etre, 
M'isoler de moi-meme et ne plus me connaitre, 
Et comme en un linceul, sans y laisser un pli, 
Rester enveloppe dans mon manteau d'oubli.' 

And here is quite a Baudelairian passage from ( La Mort 
dans la Vie ' : 

* Toute ame est un sepulcre ou gisent mille choses, 
Des cadavres hideux dans des figures roses 

Dorment ensevelis. 

On retrouve toujours les larmes sous le rire 
Les morts sous les vivants et Phomme est a vrai dire 
Une Necropolis.' 

It seems to us probable that what Baudelaire most 
admired in Gautier was the technical artist. Of the two 
poets whom we know him to have read and admired, 
Poe and Sainte-Beuve, neither could give Baudelaire 
any technical lesson. We have seen that he copied one 
or two of Poe's poetical tricks of expression ; but in his 
poems Poe is only a second-rate artist, and also a poet 
of one nation does not learn technique from a poet of a 
foreign nation. Nor would Baudelaire find anything to 
copy, as regards form, in the poems of Sainte-Beuve, for, 
with the exception of Wordsworth (whom he admired), 
no poet has written more prosaic verse than the author 
of Joseph Delorme. What Baudelaire admired most in 
Gautier was the poete impeccable, the parfait magicien es 
lettres frangaises, and it is in this capacity that Gautier 
has some influence on Baudelaire. 

Gautier declared that rinexprimable riexiste pas, and 
Baudelaire is formulating the same theory when he 
writes : 


' There is in a word, in a verb, something sacred that forbids our 
making out of them a mere game of chance. The skilful handling 
of language is the practice of a suggestive kind of sorcery. For it is 
thus that colour speaks with deep and thrilling voice ; that buildings 
stand up in sharp prominence on the depths of space ; that the 
equivocal grimace of those animals and plants representative of 
ugliness and evil becomes articulate; that a perfume calls up its 
corresponding thought and recollection; that passion murmurs or 
roars in its ever changeless language.' 

Having undertaken to distil the poetry of modern 
Parisian life, Baudelaire had recourse to Gautier as to 
the master-writer, who combined in his style relief and 
exactitude. Baudelaire first made his mark through the 
precision of his pictures ; some of his poems (for example 
* Don Juan ') are absolute bas-reliefs. The curious thing is 
that it is not so much this side of Baudelaire that interests 
us to-day, but rather that other aspect the Baudelaire of 
the Invitation au Voyage ; not the subtle artist who gives 
us the sensation of the thing achieved, but rather he who 
gives us the impression of what lies beyond. 

As for the art-for-art theory, if Baudelaire borrowed 
it from Gautier he also transformed it ; for though in 
Baudelaire's work it leads him to love of artifice, he sees 
the limits of Gautier's theory. Touching this subject he 
wrote : 

* The puerile art-for-art theory by its exclusion of all ethics, and 
often even passion, was of necessity sterile. It put itself into 
fragrant contradiction with all the spirit of humanity. In the name 
of those higher principles which constitute universal life we have the 
right to declare it guilty of heterodoxy.' 

And we have already quoted a vigorous passage on the 
danger of excessive consideration of form. 

Baudelaire was always fascinated by the mystery of 
beauty : the exterior is for him only the closed window, 
whose charm lies in the conjectures to which it gives rise 
concerning what exists on the other side of the glass. 

Gautier, on the contrary, cares only for the exterior ; he 


does not wish to penetrate into the interior ; he tells us, 
1 1 have always been very much affected by externals, 
that is why I avoid the society of old men.' 

Unlike Baudelaire again, his wish is que le soleil entre 
partout) which is far from the Baudelairian ideal, which 
makes melancholy an inseparable attribute of beauty. A 
good example of Gautier's views on this subject is his 
' Buchers et Tombeaux ' : 

* Le squelette etait invisible 
Aux temps heureux de PArt paien. 
L'homme, sous la forme sensible, 
Content du beau, ne cherchait rien. 

Pas de cadavre sous la tombe, 
Spectre hideux de Petre cher, 
Comme d'un vetement qui tombe, 
Se deshabillant de sa chair. . . . 

. . . Part versait son harmonic 
Sur la tristesse du tombeau. 

Les tombes etaient attrayantes : 
Comme on fait d'un enfant qui dort, 
D'images douces et riantes 
La vie enveloppait la mort. 

La mort dissimulait sa face 
Aux trous profonds, au nez camard, 
Dont la hideur railleuse efface 
Les chimeres du cauchemar. . . . 

Reviens, reviens, bel art antique, 
De ton Paros etincelant 
Couvrir ce squelette gothique ; 
Devore le bucher brulant ! ' 

which is quite the contrary of Baudelairism. 

Gautier said of himself : * Je suis un homme pour qui le 
monde visible existe,' but, as Mr. Ransome well remarks, 
Baudelaire is a man * pour qui le monde invisible existe/ 
and the truth of this holds for all the true Baudelairians, 
and this is the marked line that divides them from 
Theophile Gautier. 




WE have now to pass on and consider the influence 
of Baudelaire on his posterity we will study it first in 
France and then in England, and the first figure with 
whom we have to deal, following chronological order, is 
Villiers de 1'Isle Adam. 

Villiers de 1'Isle Adam was born in Brittany at St. 
Brieuc in November 1838. He came to Paris in 1857, 
and by 1858 had already composed a volume of Premieres 
Poesies, which, considering their author's age, are remark- 
able enough. Naturally, considering the period, there is 
an exotic note, and we find an < Indian Prayer ' with the 
motto dear to the Romantic * foul is fair,' and are told 
therein of the powerful allegiance of good with evil : 

* A genoux, le brahmane 
Dit en courbant le crane 
Pres du fetiche noir : 
Grave tdmoin du monde, 
Brahmah, fais que je sonde, 
Les oracles du soir. 

Fais que ma course sainte 
Ne trouve pas 1'empreinte 
De Sivah, dieu fatal, 
Ni devant ton Silence 
La puissante alliance 
Du bien avec le maL 



Ni sur le roc sauvage 
Le fils de Pesclavage, 
Le paria tremblant, 
Ni sur sa hutte impure, 
Comme un hideux augure, 
Le Vampire sanglant.' 

In this early volume we find already that seeking for 
the key to the riddle of the universe which is a sign of 
the times Villiers' great preoccupation. 


* Au moment de quitter son enfance fanee, 
Quand Phomme voit soudain la terre moins ornee, 

Le ciel plus inconnu, 

Pour la premiere fois se penchant sur lui-meme, 
II se pose en revant la question supreme : 

" Pourquoi suis-je venu ?" 

Ah ! pauvre matelot ! Loin des bords de la vie, 
Tu t'arretes, cherchant quelle route a suivie 

Ta barque au sillon bleu. 

Mais le flot sourd 1'entraine, et sans cesse 1'egare 
Dans la brume des mers, le Destin, sombre phare, 

Souleve un doigt de feu. 

Derriere lui, bien loin, presque sur les rivages, 
Deja le rameur voit voltiger des images 

Aux fronts purs et voiles : 
Une mere, une sceur, meme la fiancee. . . . 
Parfois il se souvient qu'une terre glacee 

Clot leurs yeux etoiles. 

Et ce sont les adieux d'autrefois : les mains blanches 
Qui lui serraient la main ; les baisers sous les branches, 

Et les jeunes amours. . . . 

Mais pour voguer plus seul vers de plus vastes plages, 
En detournant la tete il dechire les pages 

Du livre de ses jours. 

Alors c'est la tempete aux souvenirs funebres, 
Le malheur, pres de lui nageant dans les te"nebres, 
Le suit comme un ami ; 


Et fermant ses yeux las, si le marin sommeille, 
Le malheur vient s'asseoir au gouvernail et veille 
Sur son homme endormi. 

II nous faut bien lutter contre 1'homme et 1'espace, 
Car perdus tous, parmi la tourmente qui passe 

En courant dans les cieux, 
Pour supporter le poids des communes miseres, 
Au lieu de s'entr'aider, tous les humains, ces freres 

Se haissent entre eux. 

Les uns, insouciants, dans leurs manteaux se couchent 
Et s'en vont. II en est dont les barques se touchent. . . 

A deux on est plus fort, 

Et cherchant dans 1'amour un refuge supreme, 
Seuls ils voguent en paix sans effroi ni blaspheme, 

Vers Pinsondable port. 

Mais celui qui regarde, intrepide et tranquille, 
Les homines et les riots, & qui la mer sterile 

Toujours offre un ecueil, 
II s'y dresse en silence et lutte solitaire 
Toute voile pour lui n'est au fond qu'un suaire, 

Tout esquif qu'un cercueil. . . . 

Seul alors le vieillard abandonnant la voile 
Livre aux flots de 1'oubli cette mer sans etoile, 

Sa nef aux mats brises. . . . 

Jusqu'k Pheure ou, laisant tomber au fond de 1'urne 
Un sablier de plus, le Destin taciturne 

Dans 1'ombre dit : "Assez." 

L'onde parle tout bas aux rives qu'elle effleure, 
Et Ton entend toujours, sur 1' Ocean qui pleure, 

Le vent sombre qui fuit ; 
Et chaque aurore vient eclairer, 6 mystere ! 
Les chants insoucieux des enfants de la Terre 

Qui partent pour la Nuit ! ' 

In * Lama Sabactanni,' we find the same characteristic 
reflections on human destiny : 


' Que fait-il ici has ? Oublier et souffrir ! 
Est-ce vivre, ignorer la raison de sa vie, 
Et sans savoir pourquoi, hors d'un neant chasse*, 
Marcher dans un exil, seul, triste et delaisse, 
Ou sa fierte' d'archange, a jamais avilie 
Se traine sous le poids de sa melancolie ! 
Ou, parce qu'il naquit, au hasard, disperse 
Selon le coin de terre appele la patrie, * 

II doit fantome obscur de crime et de folie 
Changer de conscience en changeant de passe* ! 
Et toujours et toujours allumer pour lui-meme 
Le flambeau d'un Peut-etre, incertain et supreme ? . . . 
A 1'heure de la mort, fatigue d'abandon, 
S'il se tourne vers Toi, Dieu calme du pardon, 
Est-ce parcequ'il croit ? Le dernier mot du Doute 
C'est la voix qui murmure a son oreille : " Ecoute ! 
Ce fut peut-etre un Dieu : C'est peut-etre un Sauveur." 
Car nous avons le Doute enfonce dans le coeur.' 

And he is led to regret that he was not born in another 

' Si J*avais pu venir au monde, 

Aux premiers jours de 1'univers, 

Quand sur la beaute decouverte 

Eve promenait son ceil bleu, 

Quand la terre e"tait jeune et verte 

Et quand 1'homme croyait en Dieu.' 

In Paris he soon became acquainted with Baudelaire, 
and gradually a great and lasting friendship formed itself 
between the two poets. Villiers was one of the few 
friends who remained with Baudelaire through the last 
tragic two years of his life. 

There are extant three letters from Villiers to Baude- 
laire. We quote them in proof of the enthusiasm with 
which he regarded the poet of the Fleurs du Mai. 

1 Fancy my not saying in answer to M. R. when he asked me 
what you had created : " What do you understand by creation ? 
Who is he who creates or does not create ? " 

4 What is the point of this hackneyed, old as the hills, expres- 
sion ? Baudelaire is the most powerful and consequently the most 


consistent of the distressful thinkers of this miserable century. He 
strikes, he is living, he sees ! So much the worse for those who do 
not see ! ' 

The second letter goes even further : 

{ When I open your volume of an evening and read again your 
magnificent lines whose every word is a fierce mockery, the more I 
read them the more I find to reconstruct. How beautiful what you 
do is ! La Vie Anterieure, V Allegoric des Vieillards, la Madone, 
les Petites Vieilles, la Chanson de FApres-Midi, and that tour de 
force, la Mort des Amants in which you apply your musical theories. 
E Irremediable with the hegelian depth of its opening, the Squelettes 
laboureurs, and the sublime bitterness of Reversibilite, in fact every- 
thing up to Abel et Cam. ... All that you know is regal. Sooner 
or later its humanity and greatness absolutely must be recognised. 
. . . But what an eulogy is the laughter of those who are incapable 
of respect ! Do not be annoyed with my enthusiasm ; you know 
well that it is sincere.' 

In a later letter he offers Baudelaire a little legend 
translated from the Latin, and which reminded him of 
Baudelaire's ' L'Etranger.' Here it is : 

' There was once a monk who had made a pact with the devil : 
I mean he had accepted the services of a kind of demon. This 
demon, in spirit, was not of the guiltiest. At the time of that 
terrible strife he had followed where Lucifer led vaguely, almost 
like a sheep. He had not pronounced his views on the famous 
non serviam, and had found himself banished from joy and light 
almost before he had time to realise it. So that his life became a 
kind of dream, and he no longer knew what had happened. He 
was not wicked, but he had contracted the fall-mania, seeing the 
mass of dark legends knocking up against one another in the dark- 
ness of the crowd. Then with the passing of the long interminable 
centuries, he had forgotten that all that he had forgotten. ... So 
one day he noticed Earth, and finding it as comfortable to stay 
there as in the other places where he was before, he went into the 
neighbourhood of a monastery for he was fond of quiet. There 
somehow or other he once was useful to the old abbe. The old 
abbe, who was a good fellow, at once saw (with all the necessary 
reserves of conscience) what an appalling misfortune must have 


happened far back in eternity to this demoniac little fellow, and 
he did not rain forth curses on his melancholy ghostly guest. He 
asked, for he did not want to be behindhand with such a person, 
if he, in his turn, could not help him or please him in some way. 
He pressed the question on seeing the demon sadly shake what 
served him as a head. 

* " Well then," said the latter, " since you ask me I will tell you 
that you can do something for me." 

'"How?" asked the monk. 

' "Ah," said the demon, "have you the power to build a belfry 

'"Yes," said the monk. 

' " Then have a belfry built, with a great bell, and then have it 
rung at night when you can." 

* "Why?" said the monk anxiously. 

1 " I love bells the sound of bells . . . beautiful bells." ' 

No one at that period could come into real contact with 
Baudelaire without being introduced by him to the works 
of Poe, and Villiers could not fail to be attracted by 
writings which from one point of view showed distinct 
affinities with his own ideas. 

But, as a matter of fact, Villiers learnt little from Poe. 
The puerile use and abuse of italics and capitals is 
certainly a trick learnt from Poe. Certain of the Contes 
Cruels remind us of the tales of Poe, a sometimes 
gratuitous profusion of physically horrible detail such 
as the descriptions of torture in L 'Aventure de Tse-i-la, 
and the superhuman character of his men, and particu- 
larly of his women. Resemblance does not always 
postulate imitation, and if Villiers copied Poe he is vin- 
dicated in that he surpassed his model. Catalina, La 
Torture par VEsperance, both Poesque, are sufficient proof 
of this statement. Poe was interested in effects of the 
terrible, and deals often in the physically horrible to 
produce these effects. The idea of death occupied Poe to 
the length of becoming an obsession, but the mysticism 
of Villiers opens up for him a field of speculation far 


wider than the philosophy of Poe. Villiers is in this way 
a greater artist than Poe. 

The impression created by Villiers in Paris seems to 
have been a curious one. He was of the race of insatiable 
talkers to the point of boring his hearers, who, neverthe- 
less, found it worth while to note down his ideas and 
appropriate them for their own uses. He had not the 
consolation as Poe had, as Baudelaire had, of even a 
small clique of admirers. His was indeed a sad life, he 
lived in great poverty, Axel was written in a garret, and, 
more often than not, on an empty stomach. It was only 
at the end of his life that things began to brighten, when 
periodicals began to seek his work, and he made a tour 
in Belgium unlike Baudelaire with success. Still, he 
died in the hospital of the brethren Saint Jean de Dieu, 
whither he had been transferred on the recommendation 
of Huysmans, apparently little missed of the literary 
world, in 1889. 

It is small surprise to us then to be told by Fran9ois 
Coppee that Villiers spoke but little of himself and how 
he lived. 

* He seemed to live in a dream,' says Coppee, ' and only came 
forth from it to read us a few pages of peculiar and magnificent 
prose, or more rarely of poetry, or to delight us with his rare gifts 
as a musician.' 

We can only hope that by ' living in a dream ' he was 
really able to forget his sordid present. 

The work of Villiers de 1'Isle Adam falls naturally into 
two classes, according as they are the outcome of the two 
contrasting tempers of his mind lyric and ironic. 

In the first humour he is a great idealist, above all a 
dreamer. For him, as for his Claire Lenoire, 

' to dream ... is in the first place to forget the omnipotence of 
inferior minds, a thousand times more abject than Foolishness ! It 
is to cease to hear the irremediable cries of those who are eternally 
despoiled ! 'Tis to forget the humiliations that every one undergoes, 



and which you call social life ! It is to forget those so-called duties 
which revolt conscience, and are no other than the love of baser 
immediate interests in whose name it is permitted to remain 
heedless of the misery of the disinherited. It is to contemplate in 
the depths of one's thoughts an occult world of which external 
realities are scarcely even the reflection. It is to reinforce our 
invisible hope in Death who already approaches. It is to collect 
one's self in the Imperishable ! It is to feel one's self solitary but 
eternal ! Tis to love ideal Beauty, freely as the rivers flowing to 
the sea ! And all other pastimes or duties are not worth a sunny 
day in these accursed times in which I am forced to live. At 
bottom to dream is to die, to die at least in silence and with a 
something of heaven in one's eyes.' 

This dreamer carried to the highest pitch the Baude- 
lairian * detached ' attitude towards life. He compares 
himself to a member of the audience at a theatre who is 
not interested by the play, and only stays it out from 
courtesy to his neighbour, whom he would otherwise 
disturb : ' Ainsi je vivais par politesse,' he says. And the 
aid to staying out the play lies, as we have seen, in his 
dreams and in his Art. 

In the same way he has all the Baudelairian hatred of 
democracy, and of all that democracy loves. Thus his 
ideal of Art is high its essential quality lies in its being 
exceptional. It is this that leads him to paint exceptional 
men and women, with exceptional names, and surrounded 
by exceptional landscape. Commonplace is, for him, the 
unforgiveable sin, as he says : ' The only beings who 
deserve the name of Artist are the creators, those who 
call up intense, unknown and sublime impressions.' 

Any art into which a hint of imitation enters is, in his 
eyes, at once inferior. Music was his passion ; Wagner 
perhaps his greatest enthusiasm (he was himself no mean 
performer in a Wagnerian style of improvisation on the 
piano) ; but the art of the virtuoso-musician calls forth 
from him the scathing remark, * Quelle odeur de 
singes ! ' 


Villiers' art is indeed exceptional therein perhaps lies 
the reason of the neglect of his work till this day. He 
was almost exclusively occupied with ideas ; well might 
he have said : ' I love to lose myself in a mystery, to 
pursue my Reason to an O altitude.' And he cared little 
whether the particular mystery which engrossed him 
would interest the public whom, nevertheless, he expected 
to read his writings. 

But the mysteries he loves to pursue are not the puzzles 
of the everyday material life, but of those which exist 
in the realms of thought. * Mind is the foundation of 
the universe,' is his doctrine, from which follows his 
great saying, ' Understanding is the reflected light of 

His philosophy is perhaps most clearly enunciated by 
Maitre Janus in AoceL We quote his words : 

' Know then once for all that there is for thee no other universe 
than that very conception of it which is reflected in thine inmost 
thoughts, for thou canst not wholly see it, nor know it, nor even 
distinguish a single point of it, just exactly as this mysterious point 
must be in reality. . . . Truth herself is but a wayward concep- 
tion made by the race in which thou passest by, and which lends to 
Totality the forms of its mind. Wouldst thou possess her ? Create 
her ! just as anything else. . . . 

'Thou art thy future creator. Thou art a God who feigns to 
forget his whole essence only that he may the better realise its 
brilliance. For that which thou callest the universe is nothing but 
the result of this pretence of which the secret is in thee. Escape 
then from this gaol-world, thou offspring of prisoners. Free thyself 
from this doom of Becoming ! 

'Thy Truth shall be that which thou hast conceived : is not its 
essence as infinite as thyself? Take courage then to bring it forth 
most radiant, that is to choose it thus. . . . But decide that it is 
hard to become a God again and pass into nothingness : for this 
very thought, if thou dwellest upon it, becomes base, it contains a 
sterile hesitation.' 

Such were the speculations that gained a hold over 


Villiers. There is no limit to such thought once the philo- 
sopher enters on it, and these speculations may be said 
even to have tormented him ; he has all the restless 
curiosity of Baudelaire and Sainte-Beuve. When he says 
in Claire Lenoire, 

( Nevertheless, I am forced to confess I am the victim of an 
hereditary disease which has long baffled the effects of my reason 
and my will ! It consists in an apprehension, an ANXIETY, in a 
word, a DREAD, that seizes upon me like a convulsion, making me 
realise all the bitterness of a sharp, infernal restlessness,' 

it is a statement of his own case. ' Cursed are the 
dreamers,' he says in the same work. 

1 Vanity of Vanities ' is his chosen theme. Axel is the 
story of a young girl who from desire of worldly power 
refuses to take up the life of the cloister, and of a young 
man who is obsessed by the desire for gold. But when 
these two meet the desire of love in them conquers 
all else, and since they now understand the futility of 
all desires, they choose death the one thing perfectly 

Or to take another example from ' Akedysseril.' This 
queen from political reasons has decided on the death of 
a young royal couple. Her heart, however, was touched 
at the sight of their mutual devotion, and she gives the 
order to an old priest that their death shall take place in 
such a wise that they shall in it be at the height of joy. 
She afterwards discovers that the old priest separated the 
two lovers, and that they met their death each alone 
longing for the other. In her anger she enters the 
forbidden temple, seeks out the priest and pours the 
torrent of her wrath upon him. Then the priest explains 
to her that these two did indeed die in the greatest 
pleasure, not disillusioned, and cherishing always the 
hope of meeting again, an unrealised hope being the 
greatest gift of life, since realisation is ever imperfect. 


This is very bald analysis. The story is magnificently 
told ; it is perhaps the finest thing that Villiers has 

So much then for Villiers the dreamer. On the other 
hand is deep distrust of the cant of progress. His convic- 
tion that science, with all its advances, does nothing 
towards raising the level of public morality, led him to 
meet his adversaries on this question with that finest of 
all weapons irony. This is the temper of such tales as 
L'heroisme du docteur Hallidontil, the story of the doctor 
who shoots the patient he has miraculously cured in 
order to discover the working of the cure for the benefit 
of the future race, showing his amour exclusif de 
Vhumanite au parfait mepris de Vindimdu present. 

He is a veritable master of irony such stories as 
L'Aventure de Tse-i-la, Les Demoiselles de Bienfilatre, 
Le Secret cPArdiane (suggested by Barbey d'Aurevilly's 
Bonheur dans le crime), Ulncomprise are unsurpassed of 
their kind. Indeed, it is in the shorter tales that the irony 
is the more telling. UEve Future is his longest effort 
in this realm, and is a development of Hoffmann's idea of 
the human doll worked up into a volume of 375 pages 
to prove Villiers' Baudelairian thesis of the futility 
of scientific progress. Claire Lenoire is one of the best 
known of this class, with its conversations on the futility 
of science, its relentless pushing of her theories to their 
logical conclusion, its supernatural ending and here, it 
is interesting to note that, to the supernatural of which 
Villiers learnt the charm from Poe, he adds a moral note 
which is entirely lacking in Poe. 

Poe forgets our world entirely ; Villiers, on the other 
hand, sees in this world the waiting-room of the unknown, 
whence he will pass to revelation. It is the Catholic con- 
ception which is without its counterpart in the American 
writer. Though assailed by doubts, and saddened by his 
conviction of the vanity of human wishes, Villiers kept 


his faith, and these lines from his Premieres Poesies could 
have been as sincerely penned in his last years : 

' Si nous n'aimons plus rien, pas meme nos jeunesses, 
Si nos cceurs sont remplis d'inutiles tristesses, 
S'il ne nous reste rien ni des Dieux ni des Rois, 
Comme un dernier flambeau, gardons au moins la Croix ! ' 

Rivarol says somewhere, ' L'impiete est une indiscre- 
tion/ One might say the same of irony when considering 
the writer in his relation with his contemporary period ; 
therein, perhaps, is the reason of Villiers' lack of success. 
Or perhaps it is as he himself says : 

'Lorsque le front seul contient 1'existence d'un homme, cet 
homme n'est eclaire qu'au-dessus de la tete, alors son ombre jalouse 
renversee toute droite au-dessous de lui, 1'attire par les pieds pour 
I'entralner dans I'lnvisible.' 

Anatole France said of him : ( He passed like a dreamer 
through life, blind to what we saw and seeing what we 
could not see.' 

And in conclusion let us quote the words of Claire 
Lenoire : 

* There are beings who are acquainted with the paths of life, and 
are curious about the paths of death, and these, for whom the reign 
of the Spirit should come, look down upon the passing of the years, 
for they hold possession of the Eternal.' 

They may serve as epitaph. 



BARBEY D'AUREVILLY was an exceedingly prolific writer. 
His writings range over a varied field : he is critic, novelist, 
ecclesiastical historian, and historian of Beau Brummel. 
M. Charles Buet described him as a ' true soldier of the 
pen . . . ever with drawn sword and hat on head.' 

His most important works are L? Amour Impossible 
(1841), Du Dandy sme et de Georges Brummel (1845), Une 
vieille Maitresse (1851), Les Prophetes du Passe (1851), 
L'Ensorcelee (1854), Le Chevalier Destouches (1864), 
Rythmes oublies (1858), Un Pretre Marie (1864), Les 
Diaboliques (1874), etc. 

His numerous critical articles have been collected in 
the Quarante Medaillons de V Academie (1863), and Les 
CEuvres et les Hommes. He also from time to time con- 
tributed poems to various reviews ; his poetical work was 
not collected till after his death. He wrote of it in a 
letter to Trebutien of 1851 : 

' I like to keep little poems, which are like sentimental dates in 
my life. You show them to twenty-five people of whom you are 
fond, and that is all. At least in my case that will be all.' 

And again he refers to them as 

'those heart- wrung poems, better suited perhaps to a setting of 
obscurity and mystery than to the kindled glowing lamp of com- 

Something of Alfred de Vigny's stoicism has passed 
into these poems. 


1 Si tu pleures jamais, que ce soit en silence ! 
Si Ton te voit pleurer, essuie au moins tes pleurs ' 

is his doctrine. He expresses it again in these lines : 

' Saigne, saigne mon cceur, saigne plus lentement. 
Prends garde ! on t'entendrait . . . saigne dans le silence, 
Comme un cceur epuise qui deja saigna tant 
A bout de sang et de souffrance. 

Quand parmi les sans-cceur, pauvre cceur, je te traine, 
Sous mon froc etrique tu saignes dans la nuit, 
Les six lignes de chair de la poitrine humaine 
Pourraient trahir ton faible bruit. 

Mais je ne permets pas aux hommes de la foule 
Insolents, curieux de tout cruel destin, 
De t'approcher, cceur fier, pour entendre en mon sein 
Degoutter ton sang qui s'ecoule. 

Saigne, saigne, mon cceur . . . j'etoufferai 1'haleine ' 
Qui pourrait a 1'odeur reveler le martyr ! 
Saigne et meurs, cceur maudit, . . . car la Samaritaine 
Manque a jamais pour te guerir.' 

If you would understand the character of Barbey 
d'Aurevilly's work there is a great English novelist not 
long dead who should be read and compared, George 
Gissing. These two authors who are so different (that is 
just why we put their names side by side) seem to have 
sought the same kind of pleasure in letters. 

For both of them life was infinitely painful ; both were 
athirst for violent exaggerated emotions. 

Gissing required from his Nether World, wherein the 
women are savage, the men brutal, and human intel- 
ligence stunted, his revenge and at the same time his 

His revenge : for he never hid his hatred of the poor 
and their life. 

His freedom : because, by dint of describing the sordid 
existence he knew so well, he produced a state of excite- 
ment which raised him above reality. 

In the same way literature was to Barbey d'Aurevilly a 


marvellous opium which consoled him for the tricks of 
fate. But whilst Gissing is determined to show the dis- 
agreeable side, the blots of society, Barbey d'Aurevilly 
(and herein as wrong as Gissing) plunges into orgies of 
pictures, and violent inventions which terrify the reader. 

And yet nothing can be less artificial than these novels. 
Whether Barbey d'Aurevilly evoke the scarred face of an 
unreal abbe de la Croix-Jugan, whether he describe the 
ultra-excessive passions of a Ryno de Marigny, whether 
Gissing create the character of Biffen in New Grub Street, 
both authors have gained their end, that is, the expansion 
of their true personality. They have been really them- 

It was Stendhal who wrote to Balzac those pregnant 
words : ' I take a character well known to myself ; I leave 
him the habits he has contracted in the art of going every 
morning to hunt for happiness, then I give him more wit. 1 

That is just what these two novelists have done. 

As an English critic * has said, ' Gissing's men and 
women think.' Gissing has given them his mind. 

In the same way Barbey d'Aurevilly lent his imagination 
to all the people he created. This is easily explained 
when we know the circumstances of the French writer. 
As quite a child he lived in the old Norman town of 
Valognes, and knew some survivors of the wars of the 
Chouans. And out of their recollections and his own 
imagination Barbey wrote his Ensorcelee and his Chevalier 
des Touches. 

In the same way having known provincial French 
society of after Waterloo, young royalists on the one 
hand, old veterans on the other, he wrote his Bonheur 
dans le Crime, his Diner dAthees, and his Dessous de 
Cartes dune partie de whist.* 

1 Times, Literary Supplement, January n, 1912. 

2 He said himself, ' Life, passionate life with its successive disgust, could never 
make him forget these childish impressions. ' 


Barbey d'Aurevilly presents a curious combination of 
contrasts. In the first place materially. This lover of 
beauty in all things, the historian of Brummel, and who 
would be the greatest of ' Dandys,' was precluded by his 
poverty from gratifying this desire. 

The second is a contrast of mind he alternates between 
the most fervent Catholicism on the one hand, which leads 
him to produce Un Pretre Marie, and on the other a 
curious impiety which makes him write Les Diaboliques. 
These two attitudes are not meant to include the whole of 
d'Aurevilly's writings. At his greatest he is as great as 
Balzac, for example in his novels La meille Maitresse and 
Le Chevalier des Touches. 

It is the first attitude the attitude of fervent Catholicism 
which is the sincere one. He constituted himself de- 
fender of the faith to the point of composing the 
apology for the Inquisition. Everything now springs 
from Catholicism he tells us : 

' We have arrived at such an advanced point in history that there 
is nowhere anything profound outside Catholicism. The various 
succeeding civilisations have so shaken the human soul that all 
which was only on the surface has fallen away. After Shakespeare, 
whose religion is unknown who worshipped Saturn perhaps, we do 
not know indifferent to everything like Goethe, after Shakespeare 
and Goethe, these soothsayers who probed the entrails of the human 
victim as far as the knife could go there is really nothing save 
Catholicism that can teach us anything about the human heart. 
Outside Catholicism is neither philosophy nor poetry. There are 
only tilters against style, more or less successful wrestlers with 
language, technical but uninspired artists. ... In poetry, ethics, 
or the human heart, there is nothing to look for outside Catholicism, 
any more than in politics, government, or social science. Before it, 
there is only the stammering and the rudimentary, already corrupt 
movements of human nature. Behind it I can only see Barbarity, 
a Barbarity easily victorious over a civilisation that has not even 
sufficient will to defend itself.' 

And in the Preface of La meille Maitresse he returns to 


the subject the virtue of Catholicism is its acceptance of 
everything : 

' What is morally and intellectually magnificent in Catholicism is 
that it is broad, comprehensive, immense; that it embraces the 
whole of human nature and its diverse spheres of activity, and that 
above all that it embraces it inscribes its maxim " Cursed are the 
scandalised ! " There is nothing prudish, squeamish, pedantic nor 
troublesome about Catholicism. It leaves all that to false virtue, 
to shorn puritanism. Catholicism loves the arts and accepts their 
audacities without flinching. It accepts their passions and their 
pictures, because it knows that a lesson can be drawn from them, 
even when the artist himself does not draw it, 

' ... To paint what is, to seize upon human reality, be it crime 
or virtue, to make it live through the all-powerfulness of inspiration 
and form, to show reality, vivify it till it reaches the ideal, that is 
the artist's mission. From the Catholic point of view artists are on 
a lower plane than ascetics, but they are not ascetics : they are 
artists. Catholicism hierarchises merit, but does not mutilate 

* Each of us has the vocation of his faculties. The artist is not a 
police inspector of ideas. When he has created a reality by painting 
it, he has accomplished his task. Let us not ask more of him ! ' 

His long novel Un Pretre Marie is the highest develop- 
ment of his Catholic temper with its study of the con- 
sequences of the priest's sin. 

Barbey d'Aurevilly is a perfect example of that Baude- 
lairian state of mind, of which we have already spoken, 
wherein a fervid Catholic finds delight in a pose of 

For suddenly he turns away from his sincere Catholic 
attitude, and sets to work to write his Diaboliques with the 
direct aim of writing something more or less scandalous. 
In the Preface, he wrote of these tales : 

1 Of course with their title of Diaboliques they do not pretend to 
be a prayer book nor Christian Imitation. They are written, 
however, by a moralist who is a Christian, but who prides himself 
on true, even though very bold, observation, and who believes 


such is his theory of poetry that a powerful painter may paint 
everything, and that his painting is always moral enough when it is 
tragic, and gives a horror of what it draws. Now the author of this 
book, who believes in the Devil and his influence, does not laugh 
about it, and only relates these things to pure minds to terrify 
them. When any one has read these Diaboliques, I do not believe 
he will feel disposed to begin them in reality. Therein lies all the 
morality of a book.' 

But we repeat that as Barbey d'Aurevilly penned these 
tales he delighted in the idea of the scandal they would 
create, and it is from this point of view that they are 
interesting, as another example of the psychological 
phenomenon of the delight obtained from treading on 
forbidden ground. 

It is a moment 'of extravagances, and d'Aurevilly does 
not hesitate to indulge in them. His women are always 
superhuman creatures. 

In the first story, Le Rideau Cramoisi, we are face to face 
with one of these ; it is she who makes the first advance, 
and she who takes all the risks and the consequences. 
The impression we carry away of this story is that of 
Rops' illustration. 

In the second story, Le Bonheur dans le Crime \ there 
is another example of the same type. This time it is a 
woman who takes up the role of fencing-master or maid- 
servant as occasion arises, till she can accomplish the 
murder of the wife of the man she loves, and then live 
happily with him ' ever after.' Or think of his Pudica 
(A un Diner d^Athees)^ who hid the most refined com- 
plication of vice under the most innocent exterior ; or that 
other woman in La Vengeance d'une Femme, who, to be 
revenged on the husband she hated, while bearing his 
great name, dragged herself through the deepest mire 
of shame, and in dishonouring his name found her 

All those who knew d'Aurevilly testify to the blame- 


lessness of his life his wickedness was all pose. M. 
Anatole France believes that when St. Peter saw him 
arrive at the gate of heaven, he summed him up in these 
words : 

' He wanted to have every vice, but he was unable to do so, 
because that 's very difficult, and you need special talents for it ; he 
would have wished to cover himself with crimes because crime is 
picturesque, but he remained the best fellow on earth, and his life 
was almost monastic. He said some horrid things sometimes it 's 
true, but as he didn't believe them, and didn't make any one 
else believe them, it was never anything but literature, and the 
fault is pardonable.' 

So much then for one great Baudelairian feature of 
d'Aurevilly's writings. There are others. 

Baudelaire wrote at the end of a passage on Beauty 
(which we have already quoted) : ' I can hardly conceive 
of a type of Beauty in which there is no hint of sorrow.' 

If d'Aurevilly does not go quite so far as this yet, for 
him, too, Beauty is greatly enhanced when accompanied 
by an idea of the great mystery of suffering. 

' The mystery, the eternal mystery,' he writes in 
A maidee, 1 

' is sorrow that angel with flaming sword who drives us from 
the world to the desert, from life to Nature, and who sits at the 
entrance to our soul to prevent us from entering if we do not wish 
to perish.' 

And the sign of this mystery is one of the points of his 
Amaidee's beauty. Amaidee is not in her first youth : 

'Like ourselves she has drunk at the sources of things. The 
first garland of her days is faded and has fallen into the torrent that 
bears it away, and the track of sorrow is marked deep on her brow, 
like that of a cart which has passed along the road. To me, this 

1 Cp. the verse introduction to this work : 

' Notre ame affame'e, he"las ! n'est assouvie 
Que de souffle et de pleurs ensemble ou tour a tour.' 


attestation writ upon a face that life has not gone altogether well, is 
the highest beauty. Any woman who has suffered is more than fair 
in my eyes. She is a Saint. Sorrow ! Sorrow ! Most marvellous 
of spells. You are mingled with the one love of my soul, in my 
worship of Nature. I feel more devotion for her on those days when 
she seems to suffer. I love her more distressful than all powerful.' 

In Barbey d'Aurevilly also we find once more a mind 
in no way impressed by the modern talk of progress. 

'What is more absurd than Progress,' he exclaims, 'since man, as 
is proved by everyday facts, always resembles, is always equal to, 
man, that is to say, still in the savage state. What are the perils of 
forest or prairie besides the daily shocks and conflicts of civilisation? 
Whether man entrap a dupe upon the boulevard, or run through his 
victim in unknown forests, is he not eternally man, that is to say, 
the most perfect beast of prey ? ' 

And elsewhere he rails once more against this pre- 
tension of further civilisation : 

' Each century has its words which are worn threadbare. The 
eighteenth century had " sensibility," and you know how sensible was 
that century which invented the guillotine through this " sensibility." 
We who are more manly, we have "civilisation," and we are civilised 
in about the same way as the eighteenth-century folk were sensitive.' 

A cote de la Grande Histoire. 

In Barbey d'Aurevilly, too, we find a dreamy ' animism ' 
which is again a Baudelairian feature, and which leads in 
him to the creation of some very beautiful figures. Take, 
for example, this of the rain in Normandy : ' Are we not 
in Normandy, the fair Pluviosa who has beautiful cold 
tears on her beautiful cool cheeks ? I have seen women 
weeping like this.' Or this of buildings: * What you 
must look at in buildings is their gesture.' Or this of the 
wind in the trees : ' II sabrait les ormes avec un bancal et 
leur hachait leur beau visage de verdure nuancee.' 

Or, again, this description from the Memoranda : 

' He slashed the elms with his sabre, lacerating the fair shadows 
of their green leafy faces.' 


'Went up to-night to look at my old favourite the St. James's 
Bridge. Night is kind to the disfigured. Turned round by the 
rue de Bernicres in the middle of the bridge. The water was as 
black as the water of a lagoon, and on this jet surface trembled the 
light of a street lamp flickering in the wind a star a hand's breadth 
above my head. The willows at the corners of the bridge drew their 
hoods over their heads like tired sleepers. Not a passer-by on the 
bridge nor in the street, not a window near lit up, nothing but 
dampness, darkness, immobility and silence. You heard nothing 
save every now and then the crisp click of the ivory billiard balls 
striking against one another in a neighbouring cafe.' 

The same happy figures recurred in his conversation, 
such as those which M. Anatole France records : 

' Vous savez cet homme qui se met en espalier sur son mur 
au soleil.' ' Je me suis enroue en ecoutant cette dame.' 
1 J'ai aime deux morts dans ma vie. . . .' 

But to return to the dreamy imagination we find this 
at its Baudelairian height in those poems in prose (of 
which the form is copied from Baudelaire), and which 
d'Aurevilly named Rythmes oublies. Take, for instance, 
that piece wherein he develops the comparison of Insomnia 
to two great eyes, which is as powerful as anything in 

* It was one of those nights that we have, you and I, you down 
in your solitary cell, oak-lined like a coffin, and I in a still sadder 
place, for the room I dwell in is my heart.' 

Then Insomnia came and sat beside him, 

* and began to watch me with its great mournful pale eyes, 
those eyes open so immeasurably wide, which through some 
implacable magnetism dilate the eyes which look in them and 
forbid their closing. So despairing were these pale eyes. So 
despairing and so fixed, in their inherent fixity there was something 
so devoured, so eaten up and yet so inconsumable ; one felt strongly 
that, spite of their pale dust-like colour, they burned the more fiercely 
within in a secret agony, that one was really astonished that Albert 
Diirer had not put a similar expression on the forehead of Atlas, 
weighed down by his terrible melancholy.' 


The impression becomes so strong that the would-be 
sleeper at last lights his lamp, and yet still he se^s these 
terrible eyes : 

* Dead stars but still visible, they remained, tenacious as an evil 
dream, in the golden light as well as in darkness. And I saw only 
them, and I forgot to what head they belonged, for they were so 
great they seemed alone! And I said to myself "Strange sight! 
Is Insomnia then but the gaze of two great eyes ? " Night passed 
on. The hours fled by those cowardly Immortals who always take 
to flight, and as they leave us aim a last Parthian arrow at Our 
hearts, already so full of them. The lamp went out, and in the 
black curtain of darkness that once more covered the walls, the 
nocturnal monster's pale eyes opened steadily wider and wider their 
two vast orbs till morning, when they disappeared as if their ever 
widening lids had rolled .back like living blinds, one into the 
mournful pink of the ceiling, the other into the threadbare violet of 
the carpet.' 

And finally comes the inevitable comparison : 

* Insomnia is like life, our nights are like our days. . . . Cameleon 
eyes of youth's Insomnia, you are like the other inanimate eyes we 
contemplate in life, that long vigil of day which is so slow to end ! ' 

And when life is not Insomnia it is but dreams. 
D'Aurevilly would say with Maitre Janus of Villiers de 
1'Isle Adam: 'Of what can one live but of unrealised 
dreams and ignoble hopes always deceived,' or in his own 
words from his famous Laocoon : 

*O Laocoon, Laocoon! We know thee. We have trembled often 
enough at the cry of thy mute bronze. We know thee, Laocoon ! 
Art thou not more terribly sculptured in our own flesh than in 
the bronze of the greatest sculptors? Are we not all Laocoons 
in life ? Have we not all of us our serpents stealing out from the 
blue sea to seize us like thee, Laocoon at the very moment of a 
fine sacrifice, at the joyous foot of some altar? . . . 

* Our sons, Laocoon, are our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our 
love, fallen victims to destiny before us, prey of those dread serpents 
who glide into our life unnoticed till they glide into our hearts and 
we have no time to escape. 


' And to us, even as to thee Laocoon, the blood of our sacrificed 
dreams seems more cruel, more venomous than any other poison 
poured into our wounds. We are all fathers of something that we 
have to see die before us.' 

It is this side of d'Aurevilly the pure poet apart from 
the novelist or philosopher which seems to justify the 
words of Octave Lezanne : 

' D'Aurevilly was for those who came into contact with him the 
most miraculous sower of jewels, and of beauties, the most dazzling 
weaver of those suns one had believed deadened. He was over- 
flowing with ideas, paradoxes, anecdotes, morality, deep philosophy. 
How shall we describe his influence? He made one marvel, 
astounded one, one went to him as to the last knight-errant of 
literary faith, the last convinced apostle of the Religion of Letters.' 

M. Bourget in his penetrating study of this novelist 
writes : ' His poetry is as near that of the English as his 
Normandy is to England. I remember,' continues M. 
Bourget, ' how on a journey I made in a straight line from 
Caen to Weymouth by way of Cherbourg in August 1882, 
I was struck by the extraordinary resemblance of the 
scenery in the two countries. Does this resemblance ex- 
tend to minds? I should be inclined to believe it, seeing 
how near the dream of a Shakespeare or of a Carlyle is to 
the dream of a pure Norman like M. d'Aurevilly.' 

These lines give rise to a kind of emotion in us there 
is, as it were, a pre-established harmony, a kind of entente 
cordiale arranged in the past ages between great writers 
of France and England. 




PAUL VERLAINE was born in Metz in the year 1844, though 
when he was seven years old the family came to live in 
Paris. Verlaine himself tells us that his childhood was 
a happy one. In his Poetes Maudits, where he criticises 
himself under the anagram of Pauvre Lelian, he says : 
* Son enfance avait ete heureuse. Des parents exception- 
nels, un pere exquis, une mere charmante le gataient en 
enfant unique qu'il etait.' And later on he refers in verse 
to his childhood : 

' . . . Mon enfance, elle fut joyeuse ; 
Or je naquis choye, beni, 

Et je crus, chair insoucieuse 
Jusqu'au temps du trouble infini.' 

He early showed a talent for drawing (' I was cease- 
lessly in pursuit of forms, colours, shadows') and an 
insatiable appetite for reading, devouring every book 
that came within his reach. Les Fleurs du Mai he read 
in his schoolroom, hiding the book under the lid of his 
desk. He intended on leaving school to continue his 
law studies, but the Bohemian life of the young man of 
letters had already appealed to him, and by the time he 
was twenty his first volume of poems (Poemes Saturniens) 
had appeared, and law was put aside. For the next 
three years Verlaine lived a fairly riotous life, and then 
came a calm period, when he fell under the influence of 
Mademoiselle Mautet, step-sister of the musician Charles 


d'lvry, and who became his wife. This is the period of 
the volume of poems called La Bonne Chanson of which 
Verlaine said, ' I have always had a predilection for 
this poor little volume into which the whole of a purified 
heart was put ' ; and of which the temper may be^. judged 
by the following lines : 

' La lune blanche 
Luit dans les bois, 
De chaque branche 
Part une voix 
Sous la ramee. 3 

' La dure epreuve va finir, 
Mon coeur sourit a 1'avenir, 
Us sont passes, les jours d'alarmes, 
Ou j'etais triste jusqu'aux larmes.' 

But this optimism was but short lived. 

' Le Bonheur a marche cote a cote avec moi, 
Mais la Fatalite ne connait point de treve. 
Le ver est dans le fruit, le reveil dans le reve 
Et le remords est dans I'amour, telle est la loi ! ' 

Verlaine became compromised with the Government 
for having helped his friends during the Commune, and 
was obliged to take refuge in England. From there 
he wandered to Belgium, and then, after a time, back 
to Paris. From this moment dates his friendship with 
Arthur Rimbaud, who, having twice tramped from 
Charleville in the Ardennes to Paris and been obliged 
to return, the third time set out to present himself to 
Verlaine. The undeniable talent of the young author 
of the Bateau Ivre, etc., had immediately appealed to 
Verlaine, his personality no less so ; the two became great 
friends, and decided to travel together. They set off 
accordingly for Belgium, and it was in Brussels that took 
place the violent quarrel between Verlaine and Rimbaud 
which led to police intervention and the sentence of two 
years' imprisonment passed on Verlaine. It was during 


his imprisonment that Verlaine composed his ' Romances 
sans Paroles/ perhaps the most perfect of his performances, 
that most nearly realises his ideal of poetry as he himself 
expressed it : 

' De la Musique avant toute chose, 
Et pour cela prefere 1'impair 
Plus vague et plus soluble dans 1'air, 
Sans rien en lui qui pese ou qui pose. 

II faut aussi que tu n'ailles point 
Choisir les mots sans quelque meprise : 
Rien de plus cher que la chanson grise 
Ou PIndecis au Precis se joint . . . 

Car nous voulons la Nuance encore, 
Pas la couleur, rien que la Nuance ! ' 

The famous 

' II pleure dans mon cceur 
Comme il pleut sur la ville,' etc., 

' Dans 1'interminable 
Ennui de la plaine 
La neige incertaine 
Luit comme du sable. 

Le ciel est de cuivre, 
Sans lueur aucune ; 
On croirait voir vivre 
Et mourir la lune,' etc., 

or the * Poor Young Shepherd ' : 

' J'ai peur d'un baiser, 
Comme d'une abeille.' 

It was also during his imprisonment that Verlaine 
received the news of his wife's separation from him. On 
hearing this, to quote his own words, 

' I know not what nor who raised me suddenly, drew me from my 
bed without giving me time to dress, and prostrated me in tears 
at the foot of the Crucifix.' 

This then is the period of his sincere conversion, or 
reversion to Catholicism, which finds expression in his 
' Sagesse. ' 


It was certainly in prison that Verlaine composed his 
finest work. 

In 1875 Verlaine was released from prison and returned 
to France, but soon left for England, where he taught 
French and drawing till 1877. Then he again returned 
to France and obtained posts as professor in various 
colleges at Rethel, at Boulogne-sur-Seine, at Neuilly. 
In 1884 he published his prose criticisms Les Poetes 
Maudits and another volume of verse Jadis et Naguere. 

He was now famous, and things really looked brighter 
for him till, in 1886, with the death of his mother, came a 
return to the old Bohemian life, and though for the next 
ten years he continued writing, his circumstances became 
steadily darker, and he only left one hospital to enter 
another, till he died, practically abandoned, in 1896. 

In his < Dedicace ' to Gabriel Vicaire, Verlaine pleads 
for himself : 

' II faut n'etre pas dupe en ce farceur de monde 
Ou le bonheur n'a rien d'exquis et d'allechant, 
S'il n'y fretille un peu de pervers et immonde ; 
Et pour n'etre pas dupe, il faut etre mediant.' 

And again : 

' Plaignez-moi, car je suis mauvais et non me'chant.' 

His life was a series of contradictory efforts on the one 
hand towards purity, on the other towards pleasure ; a 
series of contrasts between his lofty ideals and his failure 
to attain them, a continual duel between the spirit and 
the flesh. And his writings are the record of these 
contrasts offered us with a frankness and so strong a 
personal note as to compel the now well-worn comparison 
with Villon. And it is to the age of Villon that Verlaine 
would revert. In his ' Sagesse ' he takes up the considera- 
tion of the ideal age : 

' Sagesse d'un Louis Racine, je t'envie ! 
O n'avoir pas suivi les lemons de Rollin, 
N'etre pas ne dans le grand siecle a son declin, 
Quand le soleil couchant si beau dorait la vie. 


Quand Maintenon jetait sur la France ravie 
L'ombre douce et la paix de ses coiffes de lin, 
Et royale abritait la veuve et 1'orphelin, 
Quand 1'etude de la priere etait suivie ; 

But on consideration he finds after all his ideal is not 
here but further away still. 

* Non. II fat gallican, ce siecle, et jansdniste ! 
C'est vers le moyen age, dnorme et delicat, 
Qu'il faudrait que mon cceur en partie naviguat, 
Loin de nos jours d'esprit charnel et de chair triste.' 

Or take ' Un Conte,' from the collection named Amour : 


' Simplement, comme on verse un parfum sur une flamme, 
Et comme un soldat repand son sang pour la patrie, 
Je voudrais pouvoir mettre mon coeur avec mon ame 
Dans un beau cantique a la Sainte Vierge Marie. 

Mais je suis, helas ! un pauvre pecheur trop indigne, 
Ma voix hurlerait parmi le chceur des voix des justes : 
Ivre encore du vin amer de la terrestre vigne, 
Elle pourrait offenser des oreilles augustes. 3 

Or the ' Angelus de Midi,' from the same volume : 

' Je suis dur comme un juif et tetu comme lui, 
Litteral, ne faisant le bien qu'avec ennui, 
Quand je le fais et pret a tout le mal possible. 

Mon esprit s'ouvre et s'offre, on dirait une cible ; 
Je ne puis plus compter les chutes de mon cceur ; 
La charitd se fane aux doigts de la langueur ; 

L'ennui m'investit d'un fosse' d'eau dormante ; 
Un parti de mon etre a peur et parlemente ; 
II me faut a tout prix un secours prompt et fort. 

Ce fort secours, c'est vous, maitresse de la mort 
Et reine de la vie, o Vierge immacule'e. . . .' 

The most complete expression of this temper is found 
in those beautiful lines from * Sagesse ' : 

* O mon Dieu, vous m'avez blessd d'amour, 
Et la blessure est encore vibrante, 
O mon Dieu, vous m'avez blesse d'amour. 


Voici mon coeur qui n'a battu qu'en vain, 
Pour palpiter aux ronces du Calvaire, 
Voici mon coeur qui n'a battu qu'en vain. 

Voici mes yeux, luminaires d'erreur 
Pour etre eteints aux pleurs de la priere 
Voici mes yeux, luminaires d'erreur. 

Dieu de terreur et Dieu de Saintete, 
Helas ! ce noir abime de mon crime, 
Dieu de terreur et Dieu de Saintete. 

Vous, Dieu de paix, de joie et de bonheur, 
Toutes mes peurs, toutes mes ignorances, 
Vous, Dieu de paix, de joie et de bonheur. 

Vous connaissez tout cela, tout cela, 

Et que je suis plus pauvre que personne. 

Vous connaissez tout cela, tout cela, 

Mais ce que j'ai, mon Dieu, je vous le donne.' 

And this is the reward : 

' Et pour recompenser ton zele en ces devoirs 
Si doux qu'ils sont encore d'ineffables devices, 
Je te ferai gouter sur terre mes premices, 
La paix du cosur, 1'amour d'etre pauvre, et mes soirs 

Mystiques, quand 1'esprit s'ouvre aux calmes espoirs 
Et croit boire suivant ma promesse, au Calice 
Eternel, et qu'au ciel pieux la lune glisse, 
Et que sonnent les angelus roses et noirs, 

En attendant 1'assomption dans ma lumiere, 
L'eveil sans fin dans ma charite coutumiere, 
La musique de mes louanges a jamais, 

Et 1'extase perpe'tuelle et la science, 

Et d'etre en moi parmi Paimable irradiance 

De tes souffrances, enfin miennes, que j'aimais ! . . . 

J'ai 1'extase et j'ai la terreur d'etre choisi ; 

Je suis indigne, mais je sais votre clemence. 

Ah ! quel effort, mais quelle ardeur ! Et me voici, 

Plein d'une humble priere, encor qu'un trouble immense 

Brouille 1'espoir que votre voix me revela, 

Et j'aspire en tremblant. Pauvre ame, c'est cela ! ' 


In the very contemplation of his ideal Verlaine does 
not forget his own weakness, 1 as he says in his 
' Paraboles ' : 

' Soyez beni, Seigneur, qui m'avez fait Chretien 
Dans ces temps de feroce ignorance et de haine, 
Mais donnez-moi la force et Paudace sereine 
De vous etre a toujours fidele comme un chien.' 

And in this same humour he finds consolation in the 
idea of the sublimity of suffering : 

' N'as tu pas Pesperance 

De la fidelity 
Et pour plus d'assurance 

Dans la securite' 

N'as tu pas la souffrance ? ' Sagesse XXII. 
Or this : 

' L'ame antique dtait rude et vaine, 
Et ne voyait, dans la douleur, 
Que Pacuite de la peine, 
Ou Pe'tonnement du malheur. 

L'art, sa figure la plus claire, 
Traduit ce double sentiment 
Par deux grands types de la Mere 
En proie au supreme tourment. . . . 

La douleur chre'tienne est immense, 
Elle, comme le coeur humain. 
Elle souffre, puis elle pense, 
Et calme poursuit son chemin. . . . 

Elle participe au supplice 
Qui sauve toute nation, 
Attendrissant le sacrifice 
Par sa vaste compassion. 3 

Suffering then is the great healer, only with it hope 
must go hand in hand : 

' Surtout il faut garder toute esperance.' 

It is the Nietzschean cry : * By my faith and love I con- 
jure you maintain holy your highest hope.' 

1 Amour, 1888. 


This is the ideal mood. Then there is the reverse of 
the medal ; he is led into trouble by his 'old accomplice/ 
his own weakness : 

1 J'ai la fureur d'aimer. Mon cceur si faible est foil 
N'importe quand, n'importe quel, et n'importe ou, 
Qu'un eclair de beaute, de vertu, de vaillance 
Luise, il s'y precipite, il y vole, il s'y lance.' 

The conclusion of this is practically an acknowledgment 
of defeat : 

'J'ai la fureur d'aimer. Qu'y faire ? Ah ! laisser faire.' 
Or take this from Birds in the Night : 


' Par instants je suis le pauvre navire 
Qui court, demate, parmi la tempete, 
Et ne voyant pas Notre Dame luire 
Pour Pengouffrement en priant s'apprete. 

Par instants je meurs la mort du pecheur 
Qui se salt damne s'il n'est confess^, 
Et perdant Pespoir de nul confesseur 
Se tord dans 1'Enfer qu'il a devance. 

O mais ! par instants, j'ai 1'extase rouge 
Du premier chretien sous la dent rapace, 
Qui rit a Jesus temoin, sans que bouge 
Un poll de sa chair, un nerf de sa face ! ' 

And since he is sincere, it is this weakness, this continual 
falling short of the ideal that causes his suffering. 

1 Mon cceur est un troupeau dissipd par 1'autan, 
Mais qui se reunit quand le vrai Berger siffle, 
Et que le bon vieux chien, Sergent ou Remords, gifle 
D'une dent suffisante et dure assez 1'engeance. . . . ' 

Liturgies intimes : Final. 

* Car vraiment j'ai souffert beaucoup, 
De'busque, traque comme un loup, 
Qui n'en peut plus, d'errer en chasse 
Du bon repos, du siir abri, 
Et qui fait des bonds de cabri 
Sous les coups de toute une race.' 

Amour: Lucien Letinois II. 


And he falls into despair : 

' Je ne peux plus compter les chutes de mon cceur.' 
And again : 

' Je suis 1'empire a la fin de la decadence 
Qui regarde passer les grands barbares blancs. 
Ah ! tout est bu, tout est noye, plus rien a dire.' 

And finally he describes himself as 

* Lasse de vivre, ayant peur de mourir, pareille 
Au brick perdu, jouet du flux et du reflux, 
Mon ame pour d'affreux- naufrages appareille.' 

Verlaine would thus appear to have no illusions about 
himself that is a saddening factor. 

In these two opposing moods, Verlaine saw no contra- 
diction. He treats the subject in his criticism of himself, 
noting the two divisions : 

' On the one hand verse or prose in which Catholicism spreads 
out its logic, its blandishments and its terrors, and those "horrors" 
of which Bossuet speaks; on the other hand purely worldly 
productions, which are sensual, with a hint of evil irony and a more 
than skin-deep " Sadism." It will be asked : " What becomes of 
unity of thought in all this ? " But it is there ! It is there in the 
Catholic standpoint, in the human standpoint, which for us is the 
same thing. I believe, and I sin in thought as in action ; I believe, 
and I repent in thought. Or else I believe, and the next minute I 
am a bad Christian. The recollection of, hope for, invocation of a 
sin, interest me with or without remorse, sometimes under the very 
form of sin, and most frequently fortified with all the consequences 
of sin, so strong, natural, animal are flesh and blood. It pleases 
you and me and the writer to put down on 'paper this interest, and 
to publish it more or less well expressed ; we consign it to literary 
form, either forgetting all religious ideas, or not losing sight of a 
single one of them. Should we be condemned as a poet? A 
hundred times, No ! 

'Whether the Catholic conscience reason in this way or no, 
has nothing to do with us. Now, do the Catholic poems of Pauvre 
Lelian, from the literary point of view, cover the other poems, and 


vice versa, and do the two groups form one homogeneous group ? A 
hundred times, Yes. The tone is the same in both so is the style, 
the manner, the attitude. Now solemn and simple, now elaborate, 
languid, nervous, gay everything, but the same tone throughout, 
just as man, mystic and sensualist, remains intellectually man in all 
the varied manifestations of one thought which has its ups and 
downs. And our author was free to write volumes which are solely 
of prayer at the same time as volumes which are solely impressions, 
just as the contrary would be allowable.' 

This conception of life as a continual duel between the 
Ideal and the Real is essentially Baudelairian. 

This is what Charles Morice means when he says that 
Verlaine presupposes Baudelaire. 

There are indeed from the Poemes Saturniens onwards 
distinct traces of the influence that clandestine reading of 
the Fleurs du Mai produced on the mind of Verlaine. 
Take, for instance, from the Poemes Saturniens the * Effet 
de Nuit' (as Villonesque as it is Baudelairian), or the 
4 Rossignol,' which compels comparison with Baudelaire's 
4 Correspondances.' 


* La nuit. La pluie. Un ciel blafard qui dechiquette 
De fleches et de tours a jour la silhouette 
D'une vieille ville gothique eteinte au lointain gris. 
La plaine. Un gibet plein de pendus rabougris 
Secoues par le bee avide des corneilles, 
Et dansant dans 1'air noir des gigues non pareilles, 
Tandis que leurs pieds sont la pature des loups. 
Quelques buissons d'epine epars, et quelques houx 
Dressant 1'horreur de leur feuillage a droite, a gauche, 
Sur le fuligineux fouillis d'un fond d'ebauche, 
Et puis, autour de trois livides prisonniers 
Qui vont pieds nus, un gros de hauts pertuisaniers 
En marche, et leurs fers droits, comme des fers de herse, 
Luisent a contresens des lances de 1'averse.' 


* Comme un vol criard d'oiseaux en emoi, 
Tous mes souvenirs s'abattent sur moi, 


S'abattent parmi le feuillage jaune 

De mon cceur mirant son tronc plie d'aune 

Au tain violet de 1'eau des Regrets 

Qui me'lancoliquement coule aupres, 

S'abattent, et puis la rumeur mauvaise 

Qu'une brise moite en montant apaise, 

S'eteint par degres dans 1'arbre, si bien 

Qu'au bout d'un instant on n'entend plus rien. 

Plus rien que la voix celebrant 1'Absente, 

Plus rien que la voix 6 si languissante ! 

De 1'oiseau qui fut mon Premier Amour, 

Et qui chante encof comme au premier jour ; 

Et dans sa splendeur triste d'une lune 

Se levant blafarde et solennelle, une 

Nuit me'lancolique et lourde d'dte, 

Pleine de silence et d'obscurite, 

Berce sur 1'azur qu'un vent doux effleure 

L'arbre qui frissonne et 1'oiseau qui pleure. ' 

Here is a Baudelairian passage l from ' Sagesse ' : 

* Le son du cor s'afflige vers les bois 
D'une douleur on veut croire orpheline, 
Qui vient mourir au bas de la colline 
Parmi la bise errant en courts abois. 

L'ame du loup pleure dans cette voix 
Qui monte avec le soleil qui decline, 
D'une agonie on veut croire caline 
Et qui ravit et qui navre h. la fois. 

Pour faire mieux cette plainte assoupie, 
La neige tombe a longs traits de charpie 
A travers le couchant sanguin. 

Et Pair a 1'air d'etre un soupir d'automne, 
Tant il fait doux par ce soir monotone 
Ou se dorlote un paysage lent.' 

And this passage, 

' Bon chevalier masqud qui chevauche en silence 
Le malheur a perce mon vieux coeur de sa lance. 

Le sang de mon vieux coeur n'a fait qu'un jet vermeil, 
Puis s'est evapore sur les fleurs au soleil. 

1 Cp. Baudelaire, ' Correspondances. ' 


L'ombre eteignit mes yeux, un cri vint a ma bouche 
Et mon coeur est mort dans un frisson farouche. 

Alors le Malheur s'est rapproche, 

II a mis pied a terre et sa main m'a touche. 

Son doigt gante de fer entra dans ma blessure, 
Tandis qu'il attestait sa loi d'une voix dure,' 

which in its Baudelairism recalls the manner of Petrus 
Borel's Introduction to Madame Putiphar. 
And the opening of the volume, 

' Lecteur paisible et bucolique 
Sobre, nai'f homme de bien, 
Jette ce livre saturnien, 
Orgiaque et melancolique ' 

seems borrowed from the epigraphs pour un livre 

The Baudelairian doctrine of ' Correspondances ' is a 
strong note in the ' Romances sans Paroles.' And again 
this from the Jadis et Naguere : 

' Chair. O seul fruit mordu des vergers d'ici-bas 
Fruit amer et sucre qui jutes aux dents seules 
Des affames du seul amour, bouches ou gueules, 
Et bon dessert des forts, et leur joyeux repas. 

Amour ! le seul emoi de ceux que n'emeut pas 
L'horreur de vivre, amour qui presse sous tes meules 
Les scrupules des libertins et des begueules 
Pour le pain des damnes qu'elisent les sabbats. 

Amour, tu m'apparais aussi comme un beau patre 

Dont reve la fileuse assise aupres de Patre 

Les soirs d'hiver dans la chaleur d'un sarment clair. 

Et la fileuse c'est la Chair, et 1'heure tinte 

Ou le reve etendra la reveuse heure sainte 

Ou non ! qu'importe a votre extase, Amour et Chair ? ' 

But to consider the resemblances Verlaine himself 
describes the most important in the Preface to his Liturgies 
Intimes : A Charles Baudelaire. 


* Je ne t'ai pas connu, je ne t'ai pas aime, 
Je ne te connais point et je t'aime encor moins, 
Je me chargerais mal de ton nom diffame 
Et si j'ai quelque droit d'etre entre tes temoins, 

C'est que d'abord et c'est que d'ailleurs vers les Pieds joints 
D'abord par les clous froids puis par 1'elan pame 
Des femmes de peche desquelles, 6 tant oints 
Tant baises, chreme fol et baiser affame ! 

Tu tombas, tu prias comme moi, comme toutes 
Les ames que la faim et la soif sur tes routes 
Poussaient belles d'espoir au Calvaire touche ! ' 

The influence of Baudelaire is apparent again in that 
artifice which Verlaine copied from the elder poet, and 
which so many have in their turn copied that of com- 
paring his soul, his mind, which is entirely abstract, with 
a landscape that is, with something concrete. Thus he 
writes in the Fetes Galantes : 

' Votre ame est un paysage choisi 
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques. . . .' 

Clair de Lune. 
In the same way Samain will say : 

' Mon ame est une infante en robe de parade.' 

It is here that we see the birth of the Symbolist school. 
In the same way Moreas will make these Baudelairian 
comparisons : 

* Mon cceur est un cercueil vide dans une tombe 
Mon ame est un manoir hante par les corbeaux.' 

Les Syrtes. 

All that the symbolists have to do is to suppress the 
abstract word the first term of the comparison. 

Verlaine has none of Baudelaire's pose ; he laid down 
his canons of art 

* L'art tout d'abord doit etre et paraitre sincere 
L'art, mes enfants, c'est d'etre absolument soi-meme,' 

canons which are decisively un-Baudelairian and which 


Verlaine most certainly fulfilled. He is always simple, 
always sincere and quite without any desire to mystify us. 
Where Baudelaire becomes bitter, Verlaine is only sad, 
and he has none of Baudelaire's love of wrongdoing qua 
wrongdoing. As Charles Morice well remarked, Baude- 
laire loved thefemmes damnees merely in so far as they 
are such ; he carried Sadism to the point of requiring a 
hint of baseness to compose attraction, whereas Verlaine 
sought even in wickedness to discover something tender 
and beautiful for consolation. 

* Even for the terror of religion he invents a tenderness, without 
robbing it of any of its force and sublimity ; he lends graciousness to 
Grace, and all life would be a lasting festival for him, could he but 
celebrate the final reconciliation of the seven deadly sins and the 
three theological Virtues.' 1 

This refers to the Crimen Amoris, that long poem in 
which Verlaine would present Hell seeking to sacrifice 
itself for Universal Love together with the poet's hope 
that his desires may be annihilated since they wreck all 
his efforts towards the Ideal. But * the sacrifice was not 

Here Verlaine goes further than Baudelaire, though he 
is, as a rule, far more simple than Baudelaire. 

Verlaine is one of those curious cases who, set them as 
often as you will on the path, seem infallibly to drift 
toward the gutter. The pity of it is that a great poet was 
there ; it is proved when Verlaine was imprisoned. 

His collected works form four large volumes. He fell 
into the danger which besets your purely personal poet, 2 
and recorded many of his experiences that were better 
unrecorded ; but when all is said, and these are winnowed, 
there remains in those volumes some of the greatest 
poetry ever written. 

1 Charles Morice : Paul Verlaine, 1888. 

2 He himself said of his Bonheur, and the saying holds good for his whole 
work : ' There is no page of this book which has not been lived. ' 



EDOUARD JOACHIM CORBIERE, who later preferred to be 
known by the more romantic name of Tristan Corbiere, 
was a Breton, born at Morlaix in 1845. 

At the age of sixteen he already showed signs of con- 
sumption, and also of a peculiarly blase temperament. It 
was in consideration of these two facts that his father 
encouraged his love of the sea by building him a sloop. 
And, indeed, on the sea, Corbiere could always discover 
the ecstasy of life the sea was his great, his only passion. 

In 1873 he came to Paris, where he wrote for La Vie 
Parisienne, and indulged his taste for draughtsmanship. 
We know very little of his life in Paris ; there are practi- 
cally no documents to help us. His object seems to have 
been to lead a l Baudelairian ' life ; his actions appear as 
one continual struggle after originality. He was another 
des Esseintes sleeping all day and breakfasting at mid- 
night, and in spite of all his efforts remaining incurably 
bored, and as a true Baudelairian wearing his rue of 
boredom with a difference. 

4 Dans mes degouts surtout j'ai des gouts eldgants,' 

he says in his Poete contumace. 

His Bohemian existence certainly hastened his end ; he 
in no way deceived himself in this matter, but withdrew 
to his native Morlaix, where he died in March 1875. 

Corbiere must be placed among those minds it is impos- 


sible to class. Indefinable, elusive, his poems are just 
the fluttering drapery of ideas which more often than not 
baffle our efforts to grasp the body of intention under- 
neath. He carries the Baudelairian ideal of suggestion 
to its highest pitch. 

1 Faisant d'un a peu pres d'artiste, 
Un philosophe d'a peu pres, 
Raleur de soleil ou de frais, 
En dehors de 1'humaine piste.' 

Jules Laforgue said of Corbiere that he had no theories, 
no aesthetic. But there is a hint of spite in Laforgue's 
severity, and we can suspect the reason of it. Leo Treznik, 
a friend of Corbiere, had suggested in the Lutece that 
Laforgue was merely a disciple of Corbiere. Laforgue at 
once replied (in the Lutece of the 4th October 1885) that 
he had left his ' Complaints ' with the publisher Vanier 
six months before the publication of Verlaine's Poetes 

Corbiere's Les amours jaunes had been published in 
Paris in a limited edition of 481 copies by Glady in 1873, 
but at first did not sell, and lay about in the bookshops 
till Verlaine discovered them and placed Corbiere among 
his Poetes Maudits (1884). 

Thus it would appear to be through Verlaine that 
Laforgue learnt of the existence of Tristan Corbiere. 
Laforgue seems to have always borne Corbiere some 
malice on account of being considered his disciple, and, 
in his article on this poet, he really gives too free a rein 
to his feelings, declaring that there is 

' no poetry, no verse, hardly literature a craft without any plastic 
interest the interest lies in the lashing, the dry point, the punning, 
the frisking, the romantic scamping.' 

Doubtless poets are not in the habit of sparing one 
another, but this ill-nature towards a poet, like himself, 
consumptive, suggests that Laforgue felt that Treznik's 



article had hit its mark. Indeed, Laforgue's blague, 
that irony turned against himself, strongly resembles 
Corbiere's attitude. (Let us remember, too, that Corbiere 
died of consumption at the age of thirty, and Laforgue of 
the same disease at the age of twenty-seven.) 

Corbiere has all the Baudelairian habit of seizing upon 
the disquieting aspect of things a temper which we 
shall meet again in Rollinat. 

Take, for instance, this poem : 


' Un chant dans une nuit sans air. . . . 
La lune plaque en metal clair 
Les decoupures du vert sombre. 

. . . Un chant ; comme un dcho, tout vif 

Enterre', la, sous le massif. . . . 

Qa se tait : Viens, c'est la dans 1'ombre. . . . 

Un crapaud ! Pourquoi cette peur, 
Pres de moi, ton soldat fidele ! 
Vois-le, poete tondu, sans aile 
Rossignol de la boue. . . . Horreur ! 

II chante. Horreur ! Horreur, pourquoi ? 
Vois-tu pas son ceil de lumiere. . . . 
Non : il s'en va, froid, sous sa pierre. 

Bonsoir ce crapaud-la c'est moi.' 
We quote from the epitaph he composed for himself : 

' Coureur d'ide'al sans idee, 
Rime riche, et jamais rime*e, 
Sans avoir etc, revenu, 
Se retrouvant partout perdu. 

Poete en de'pit de ses vers, 
Artiste sans art, a 1'envers, 
Philosophe, a tort a travers. 
Un drole serieux pas drole, 
Acteur, il ne sut pas son role ; 
Peintre : il jouait de la musette ; 
Et musicien : de la palette. . 


Ne fut quelqu'un, ni quelque chose : 
Son nature! etait la pose. . . . 

Trop Soi pour se pouvoir souffrir, 
L'esprit a sec et la tete ivre, 
Fini, mais ne sachant finir, 
II mourut en s'attendant vivre 
Et vecut, s'attendant mourir.' 

Like Baudelaire in the Fanfarlo^ he likes to pose as 
Lhomme des belles osuvres ratees. The same temper 
breathes in these lines from * Decourageux ' : 

' Ce fut un vrai poete : il n'avait pas de chant. 
Mort, il aimait le jour et dedaigna de geindre. 
Peintre : il aimait son art II oublia de peindre. . . . 
II voyait trop. Et voir est un aveuglement. . . . 

Pur heros de roman : il adorait la brune, 

Sans voir s'elle tait blonde. ... II adorait la lune ; 

Mais il n'aima jamais. II n'avait pas le temps. 

Chercheur infatigable : Ici bas ou 1'on rame, 
II regardait ramer, du haut de sa grande ame, 
Fatigue de pitie pour ceux qui ramaient bien. . . .' 

And again here : 

' L'ideal a moi : c'est un songe 
Creux ; mon horizon 1'imprevu 
Et le mal du pays me ronge. . . . 
Du pays que je n'ai pas vu. 

Je suis le fou de Pampelune 
J'ai peur du rire de la Lune, 
Cafarde avec son crepe noir. . . . 
Horreur ! tout est done sous un eteignoir. 

J'entends comme un bruit de crecelle. . . . 

C'est la male heure qui m'appelle. 

Dans le creux des nuits tombe : un glas . . . deux glas. 

J'ai compte plus de quatorze heures 

L'heure est une larme Tu pleures, 

Mon coeur ! . . . Chante encor, va ne compte pas.' 

Tristan Corbiere is the type of the writer who makes 
mock of his own feelings the better to torture himself. 


To show that the poet is no one's dupe least of all his 
own that is the aim of such poets as Corbiere, Laforgue, 
and Charles Cros. 

The poems of this last bohemian and whimsical poet, 
collected in Le Coffret de Santal and Le Collier de Perles, 
also show the influence of Baudelaire with all their love 
of the artificial, of the oriental, and of opium. 

These charming lines from the Coffret de Santal are 
absolutely Baudelairian : 

* Elle avait de beaux cheveux blonds 
Comme une moisson d'aout, si longs 
Qu'il lui tombaient jusqu'aux talons. 
Elle avait une voix etrange, 
Musicale, de fee ou d'ange, 
Des yeux verts sur leur noire frange.' 



HUYSMANS with his bitterness, his restlessness, his sus- 
tained repugnance for his own thought, his general dis- 
gust of everything, is a direct descendant of Baudelaire. 

' Amabam amare' quotes Sainte-Beuve for his own case, 
for Huysmans, it is the only occupation. That is why 
Huysmans the critic is so much more interesting than 
Huysmans the pure novelist. 1 The critic becomes 
absorbed from time to time in the masterpieces he 
observes, and a sincere note of enthusiasm will creep in ; 
but the novelist has only one attitude profoundest ennui. 
Therein lies the weakness the work is all negative. 
There is only degout de la vie; we miss the pendant extase 
de la vie which we naturally demand. 

Mr. Symons has made a portrait of Huysmans which 
is just that which we should make for ourselves, having 
only his early works to go upon : 

' Perhaps it is only a stupid book that some one has mentioned, 
or a stupid woman ; as he speaks the book looms up before one, 
becomes monstrous in its dulness, a masterpiece and miracle of 
imbecility ; the unimportant little woman grows into a slow horror 
before your eyes. It is always the unpleasant aspect of things that 
he seizes, but the intensity of his revolt from the unpleasantness 
brings a touch of the sublime into the very intensity of his disgust. 
Every sentence is an epigram, and every epigram slaughters a 

1 In contradistinction to the psychological interest which develops with the 
later work. 


reputation or an idea. He speaks with an accent as of pained 
surprise, an amused look of contempt so profound that it becomes 
almost pity for human imbecility.' 

This obsession by the l unpleasant side of things ' finds 
its expression in the furious disgust of Huysmans' early 
works : En Menage^ Les Soeurs Vatard, A Van VEau. 

In Nature only the melancholy side can appeal to him. 

He has also all the Baudelairian love of contemplative 
sadness. Here is how he speaks of Nature : 

' Nature is only interesting when weakly and distressful. I do not 
deny her magic and her glory when her great laugh bursts her 
corsage of dark rocks, and she brandishes in the sun her green- 
tipped bosom, but I confess I do not feel before her displays of 
vigour that tender charm which is produced in me by a desolate 
spot in a great town, a bare mound, a little stream weeping between 
two frail trees. 

* In reality the beauty of a landscape is made up of melancholy.' 

La Bievre. 

Or this from the Cabaret des Peupliers : 

( In the distance one or two shaky huts with mattresses hanging 
out of the windows, and flowers planted in milk cans and old sauce- 
pans; trees whose sap is weakly are placed at irregular intervals, 
and, showing their paralysed arms like beggars, they shake their 
heads that stammer in the wind, and bend their trunks poorly 
nourished by the niggardliness of an incurable soil.' 

Let us now pass on to consider A Rebours and its hero 
des Esseintes, who, as is usual in this author's works, is 
Huysmans i*tmself. 

On the title-page we read : * I must find delight beyond 
my time though the world have horror of my joy, and in 
its coarseness know not what I mean.' 

Let us see how he sets about accomplishing his aim. 
In the first place, by carrying the Baudelairian attitude of 
detachment from the world to the point of withdrawing to 
a * comfortable solitude far from the incessant deluge of 
human stupidity.' 


The site chosen, he sets to work to arrange his ideal 
home. The descriptions here are clearly reminiscent of 
Gautier. In this home, then, des Esseintes will live his 
own life ; his aim is to forget reality and live in a dream 
1 to delude himself to the point of substituting the dream 
for the reality/ But a change has now come over the 
spirit of the dream the ideal element has left it, it is 
merely the dream of the sensations. The one essential 
thing in Huysmans' tactics concerning the pursuit of 
sensation being always to follow an exceptional course, 
des Esseintes resolves to satisfy this condition by 
beginning his day in the evening and supping at five 
o'clock A.M. (r exception dans Pordre moral again). And 
then proceeds with the cult of the sensations. 

He takes up the Baudelairian theory of corre- 
spondences : 

1 He thought that the sense of smell could experience pleasures 
as great as those of hearing and sight, each sense, by reason of 
a natural disposition and an erudite cultivation, being able to 
perceive new impressions, to multiply them tenfold, to co-ordinate 
them, and make of them that whole which constitutes a per- 
formance ' 

which theme is developed at length in the tenth chapter. 
Baudelaire showed the way here. Huysmans carries the 
theory of correspondences even further, as when he speaks 
of liqueurs : 

'Des Esseintes drank a drop here and a drop there (and) 
managed to produce in his throat sensations analogous to those 
which music procures for the ear. . . . Moreover, for him each 
liqueur corresponded in taste with the sound of an instrument. For 
instance, dry curagao, with the clarionet whose note is high and 
velvety ; kiimmel, with the hautboy whose sonorous timbre has a 
nasal quality ; menthe and anis, with the flute which is both sugary 
and peppery, whining and sweet ; while, to complete the orchestra, 
kirsch sounds furious trumpet-notes, etc., etc. 

4 These principles once granted, he was able, thanks to profound 


experience, to play silent melodies upon his tongue, mute funeral 
marches with magnificent spectacle, to hear in his mouth soli of 
menthe, duos of vespetro and rum.' 

In his reading, too, des Esseintes shows his Baude- 
lairian tastes. Poe has a great attraction for him and for 
this reason : 

' He was the first under the title of the Imp of the Perverse to 
study those irresistible impulses which the will suffers without 
realising them, and of which cerebral pathology has now given an 
almost certain explanation. He was also the first to, if not point 
out, at least divulge the depressing influence of fear acting upon the 
will in the same way as anaesthetics which paralyse feeling, and 
curare which destroys the nervous motive elements. It was towards 
this point, this lethargy of the will, that he had made his studies 
converge, analysing the effects of this moral poison, indicating the 
symptoms of its progress, the troubles beginning with anxiety, 
continuing with agony, and finally breaking out into terror which 
stupefies volition, while the intelligence, though shaken, does not 
give way.' 

Of the moderns, he was influenced, he says, by Zola, 
the Goncourts, Flaubert, and above all by Baudelaire. 
For the last-named, des Esseintes had a boundless 
admiration : 

'According to him literature had been limited hitherto to an 
exploration of the surface of the soul, or to a penetration into such 
of its subterranean chambers as are accessible and lit up, while the 
authors noted here and there the beds of capital sins, studying their 
veins, their growth, and remarked, like Balzac, for example, the 
simplification of the soul possessed by the monomania of a passion. 

1 Baudelaire went further, he travelled down to the bottom of the 
inexhaustible mine, and made his way through abandoned or 
unknown galleries, and finally reached those districts of the soul 
wherein is the ramification of thought's monstrous vegetation. 

'He revealed the morbid psychology of the mind which has 
reached the October of its sensations ; related the symptoms of souls 
sought out by sorrow, favoured by " Spleen " ; showed the decay 
of impressions, increasing as the enthusiasms and beliefs of youth 


are dulled, when nothing remains but the arid recollection of misery 
suffered, intolerance undergone, irritation incurred by intelligences 
oppressed by an absurd destiny. 

1 He had undergone all the phases of this lamentable autumn, 
watching the human creature embittering itself with such docility, 
cleverly deceiving itself, forcing its thoughts to cheat one another 
the better to suffer, in advance spoiling all possible joy, thanks to 
analysis and observation. 

* At a moment when literature attributed the pain of life almost 
exclusively to the misfortunes of love unrequited or adulterous 
jealousy, he neglected these childish maladies to probe wounds 
more incurable, more sensitive, and deeper ; wounds which satiety, 
disillusion, contempt, inflict upon those ruined souls whom the 
present tortures, the past revolts, and the future terrifies and plunges 
into despair.' 

We have quoted at some length a comprehensive 
criticism is frequently an illumination on the mind of the 
critic quite as much as that of the criticised. 

In des Esseintes Huysmans created a type which has 
had, and still has, a great influence : the type of the 
naturally unnatural. Baudelaire, Barbey d'Aurevilly, 
Villiers de 1'Isle Adam had seen the danger of the art- 
for-art theory. Not so the descendants of des Esseintes ; 
with them it is become the keystone of their building 
Fuyons rentrons dans Vartificiel is their motto. 

A Rebours marks the beginning of the second stage 
of Huysmans' development shows the first signs of the 
writer's being en route towards faith. True, there had 
been a hint of this in A Vau VEau, where Folantin defin- 
itely decides that ' religion alone could heal his aching 
wound,' when he thinks of a cousin who is a nun, and 
begins to envy her her calm, silent life, and to regret his 
own lost faith, and exclaims, 

' What a consolation is to be found in prayer, what a pastime in 
confession, what an outlet in the rites of cult, " Spleen " has no hold 
on pious souls ! ' 


The idea recurs in A Rebours. Des Esseintes 

' . . . looked down as it were from the tower of his mind upon the 
panorama of the Church, its hereditary influence upon humanity for 
centuries ; he pictured it to himself desolate yet great, announcing 
to man the horror of life, the inclemency of fate, preaching patience, 
contrition, the spirit of sacrifice, seeking to heal all sores by showing 
the bleeding wounds of Christ, giving assurance of divine privileges, 
promising the fairer part of Paradise to the afflicted, exhorting the 
human creature to suffer, to offer to God as holocaust its vicissitudes 
and its troubles. The Church became truly eloquent, maternal 
to the unhappy, compassionate to the oppressed, threatening to 
oppressors and despots.' 

And the conclusion of the book is a prayer : 

1 Lord, have pity on the Christian who doubts, on the unbeliever 
who would fain believe, on the galley slave of life who embarks 
alone in the night under a firmament no longer lit up by the 
consoling watch-lights of former hopes.' 

The next step in this path is to be found in Huysmans' 
interest in sacrilege and satanism as expressed in La-bas. 

But here already, as M. Lemaitre points out, Huysmans 
was en route towards belief : 

' For when one believes in God sufficiently to curse Him, it is 
very simple : one might as well adore Him. Black masses come 
near the other mass because they are its contrary : and satanic 
despair may engender divine hope. Absolute pessimism, when less 
a perversion of the mind than a state of the nervous system, may be 
a great creator of dreams.' 

On this subject one may well apply to Huysmans his 
own words on Barbey d'Aurevilly : 

' Sacrilege which proceeds from the very existence of a religion 
can only be intentionally and pertinently carried out by a believer, 
for man would find no delight in profaning a faith that was in- 
different or unknown to him.' 

Finally, En Route completes the history of the mind's 
development in giving the story of his conversion one 


of the two natural courses open to one who suffered so 
acutely from his disgust at life. 

' Ah ! ' he went on, ' when I think of that horror, that disgust of 
existence which has for years and years increased in me, I under- 
stand how I am forced to make for the Church, the only port where 
I can find shelter. 

1 Once I despised her, because I had a staff on which to lean when 
the great winds of weariness blew; I believed in my novels, I 
worked at my history, I had my art. I have come to recognise its 
absolute inadequacy, its complete incapacity to afford happiness. 
Then I understood that Pessimism was, at most, good to console 
those who had no real need of comfort; I understood that its 
theories, alluring when we are young, and rich, and well, become 
singularly weak and lamentably false when age advances, when 
infirmities declare themselves, when all around is crumbling. 

' I went to the Church, that hospital for souls. There at least they 
take you in, they put you to bed and nurse you, they do not merely 
turn their backs on you as in the wards of Pessimism and tell you 
the name of your disease.' En Route^ trans. Kegan Paul. Third 
edition, 1897. 

There are then in Huysmans two conflicting feelings 
which appear contradictory, but are so only in appearance 
that of the horror of life, and above all of the impurity 
of the flesh ; and that of a certain delectation in this very 
ugliness. He hates the impurity, and yet takes pleasure 
in describing it. We have already seen that such a state 
of mind is common, but it presupposes a Christian state 
of mind in the being who experiences the feeling. The 
judgment that Huysmans, in the bottom of his heart, 
always made on his own works, the profound aversion 
with which they inspired him, recalls the disgust that 
any believer has for himself when he has succumbed to 
temptation. Huysmans' soul was purified by each of his 
intellectual crises, though slowly, very slowly, and in this 
way naturalism in him was transformed into mysticism. 

This point brings us to A Rebours y which was such a 


literary event at the time of its publication. Here we see 
him attracted by the stupidity and ugliness of things, 
attracted by them, that is, not in life, but in the picture he 
draws of them. 

Such, shortly, is the history of the stages of Huysmans' 
'conversion.' For a long while no one was willing to 
believe that a writer who was at once so naturalistic and 
so ironical could be sincere. Men of letters saw in En 
Route nothing but a passion for human documentation. 
They reasoned that Huysmans, a disciple, a friend of 
Zola, had gone to the monastery to seek new artistic 
sensations. On the other hand, theologians did not 
understand a man's embracing a religion without enter- 
ing into theological controversy, and they reproached 
Huysmans with being led into Catholicism through the 
senses. Such a conversion held nothing flattering to 
their pride as scholastic doctors who would lead men 
to faith by way of reason. Then again, the Catholicism 
of Huysmans frightened them. This man, who from one 
day to the next went to the utmost limits of Catholicism ; 
this man, who was only interested in mysticism, and who, 
only just converted, already suggested the martyr, pre- 
sented a spectacle by which the timorous were scandalised. 

Yet Huysmans was really and sincerely converted. 

Twenty years after the publication of A Rebours he had 
the volume privately reprinted, and wrote for it a Preface 
which is of the highest importance for whomsoever would 
understand this man who was above and before all sincere : 

' I was not brought up in a congregational school, but in a lycee ; 
I was never pious in my youth, and that aspect of childish 
recollection, first communion and education, which often occupies 
an important place in conversions, had none in mine. And what 
complicates the difficulty still further is that when I wrote A 
Rtbours I was not in the habit of setting foot inside a church ; 
I was not acquainted with any church-going Catholic, nor with any 
priest ; I felt no divine touch urging me to direct my steps towards 


the Church ; I was living quite comfortably in my trough; it seemed 
perfectly natural to me to satisfy every impulse of my senses, and the 
thought that this kind of tournament was forbidden never entered 
my head. 

'A Rebours appeared in 1884, and I went into a Trappist 
monastery to become converted in 1892. Nearly eight years passed 
before the seed of this book began to grow : let us say there were 
three years of secret, steady, and sometimes perceptible work 
of grace ; there still remain five years when I do not remember 
feeling any Catholic desire, any regret for the life I was leading, any 
wish to change it. Why, how, was I incited into a way which was 
then to me lost in the night ? I am absolutely incapable of saying. 
Nothing, unless it were the influence of beguine convents or 
cloisters, the prayers of a very devout Dutch family whom I 
scarcely knew, can explain the perfect unconsciousness of the last 
cry, the religious appeal on the last page of A Rebours. 

1 Yes, I know, there are some very strong-minded people who map 
out and arrange in advance the journey of their existence, and keep 
to their plan ; it is even agreed, if I am not mistaken, that given the 
will one may accomplish anything, but I, I confess, have never been 
a man tenacious of purpose, nor a cunning author. 

'My life and my writings have something passive about them, 
something unconsciously tending in a very certain direction outside 
myself. Providence was compassionate to me, Our Lady was kind to 
me. I confined myself to not opposing them when they showed 
their intentions ; I simply obeyed ; I was led along what are called 
the extraordinary ways ; if any one is certain of the nonentity he 
would be without God's help, it is I.' 

Such is the document Huysmans gives us of his 
conversion. There is no need to discuss it. What we 
now know of Huysmans proves how true it was, and how 
mistaken were those who predicted his return to his 
former ways. 

It should have been seen that in Huysmans' religion 
there was nothing of that purely literary quality of 
Chateaubriand, nor of the purely moral and social char- 
acter of that of Brunetiere (to speak of a man recently 
dead, and who had a considerable influence). 


A comparison of Brunetiere and Huysmans forces itself 
upon us. While Brunetiere sought for ten years to find 
1 reason for belief,' Huysmans entered the domain of faith 
straightway with no beating about the bush. For, after 
all, the best reason for belief is faith. 

What happens to-day is rather curious. M. Brune- 
tiere's talent has been lauded to the skies, and far be it 
from us to criticise ; from the moral point of view this 
man was a true saint. 

On the other hand, much ridicule has been hurled at 
Huysmans because he was an artist who let himself be 
guided by his sensations. 

But what is the result to-day ? M. Brunetiere, despite 
all his talent and his oratorical campaigns, only converts 
the converted. Not that he is at fault. Yet in addressing 
himself to philosophic reasoning he was addressing him- 
self to that part of our mind which always wishes to 
reason, to the argumentative side. But reason destroys 
reason ; the way to faith is not by the road of meta- 

Huysmans, on the contrary, far more humble, had the 
feeling of the divine. His book En Route tells us how 
this feeling was reinforced, renewed, by frequenting 
churches, by the company of two or three friends, and by 
the intellectual struggles he underwent. No psychologist 
be he believer or sceptic can afford to neglect such a 
book. One realises in reading these pages that faith in 
so far as it can be analysed is above and before all a 
feeling, and such an imperious feeling that it becomes 
will. The distinction between will and feeling is purely 
imaginary in the act of faith feeling and will become 

But then is added another element which Huysmans 
makes us understand perfectly, that element that for 
centuries has been known as * Grace.' This word which 
has embittered so many theological quarrels expresses a 


reality ; it means the support that the religious soul feels 
coming from outside. 

From this point of view Huysmans' book En Route is a 
psychological document of the highest importance, and 
when the quarrels of certain theologians have long lain 
forgotten we shall take up his book to watch the efforts 
and the sufferings of a human soul. 

To answer those questions of whence our coming and 
whither our going, what our progress, what our destiny 
and what the foundation of our morality, philosophers 
enough come with their contradictory replies. They ensure 
our taking pleasure in reading an artist, for Huysmans 
was a true artist, who did not trouble himself about the 
truth or name of one doctrine, but who reverently (yes, 
reverently, for aught one may say to the contrary) accepted 
all the Catholic faith, ordered his life in accordance with 
that doctrine, and died a saint's death after terrible 
suffering. As M. Henri d'Hennezel says : 

' His death was the most perfect of his works ... no complaint 
ever came from his lips, and during all those months of agony when 
he felt life slipping away from him, in the midst of unspeakable 
suffering, he spoke of his illness, only to submit its duration to the 
will of God.' 

Huysmans in his style is an extraordinary artist and 
innovator ; in his ideas he seems like a man of the Middle 
Ages with his wonderful simplicity, a brother of that 
humble ' Simeon le porcher ' of whom he draws such a 
vivid portrait in En Route. 




IN 1883 one of the ' sensations' of Paris was the poet 
Maurice Rollinat, then aged about thirty, already famous 
by reason of his two volumes of poems Dans les Brandes 
and Les Nevroses, who in various salons sang his verses 
to the music he, himself, composed for them. His striking 
originality, his great gifts, poetic and musical, made him 
the fashion at one period. Ill-health, however, rendered 
it advisable for him not to live in Paris. Still the public 
approval he enjoyed was very pleasant, and he hesitated 
some time before following medical advice of retiring to 
the country. One night, so the story goes, after he had 
sung some of his verses in a salon with his usual energy 
and passion, an old general advanced and asked of him : 
* Well, M. Rollinat, are you satisfied with your perform- 
ance!' That decided Rollinat, and he left Paris next 
day for his native Chateauneuf. His friends, at first, 
believed this retirement to be a passing caprice, the out- 
come of pique, but the years went on and Rollinat never 
returned to Paris. He seems to have been quite content 
with his quiet provincial life and the pleasure that he found 
in trout-fishing, or (like his ancestress George Sand) in 
observation of the peasants living round him a life which 
offers a contrast indeed to that of literary favourite, but 
in which he had the consolation of freedom from the petty 
jealousies of public life, and where, if the applause be 
lacking, so likewise is the sting of shifting favour. 


As he himself says : 

' It is only the solitary fireside in some lost retreat, which is the 
mind's best paradise, turning its sadness to work, inspiring its 
sorrow, rendering fertile its idleness.' 

It was here that he wrote L'abime (1886), La nature 
(1892), Les apparitions (1896), Pay sages et pay sans (1899)) 
En Errant (1903), Ruminations (published in 1905). He 
died mad at Ivry in 1903. 

Rollinat is the most direct descendant of Baudelaire, a 
great disciple who, for some critics, surpasses his master. 
Like Baudelaire, like Poe, Rollinat loved to conjure up the 
horrible, to dwell on it ; but for this his mind needed no 
artificial stimulant, his extraordinary imagination sufficed. 
Admitting Rollinat to be a disciple of Baudelaire, it 
follows at once he has a great admiration for Poe. His 
ideal in music (with Wagner) was Chopin, whom he did 
not hesitate to call the ' Farouche Edgar Poe of music.' 
Here is his poem on Poe : 

1 Edgar Poe fut demon ne voulant pas etre ange, 
Au lieu du Rossignol il chanta le Corbeau, 
Et, dans le diamant du Mai et de PEtrange, 
II cisela son reve effroyablement beau. 

II cherchait dans le gouffre ou la raison s'abime 

Les secrets de la Mort et de 1'Eternite ; 

Et son ame, ou passait Peclair sanglant du crime, 

Avait le cauchemar de la Perversite. 

Chaste, mysterieux, sardonique et feroce, 

II raffine 1'Intense, il aiguise 1'Atroce ; 

Son arbre est un cypres, sa femme un revenant. 

Devant son ceil de lynx le probleme s'eclaire. 

Oh, comme je comprends 1'amour de Baudelaire 

Pour ce grand Tenebreux qu'on lit en frissonnant ! ' 

Rollinat, too, is a tenebreux ; his mind is full of eerie 
fancies which have an endless fascination for him : 
* Mon crane est un cachot plein d'horribles bouffees. 
Le fantome du crime a travers ma raison 
Y rode pe*netrant comme un regard de fees.' 

Fantome du Crimed 
1 See also Le Fantdme cT Ursule. 


' Depuis que 1'Horreur me fascine, 
Je suis 1'oiseau de ce serpent. 
Je crois toujours qu'on m'assassine, 
Qu'on m'empoisonne ou qu'on me pend.' DAngoisse. 

Sensations had created these ideas, and these ideas in 
their turn create sensations ; they break through the ennui 
of existence which, after all, for Rollinat is made up of 
frissons each emotion has its corresponding frisson : 

' Un frisson gai nait de 1'espoir, 
Un frisson grave du devoir, 
Mais la Peur est le frisson noir 
De la Pensee. 

La Peur qui met dans les chemins 
Des personnages surhumains. 
La Peur aux invisibles mains 
Qui revet 1'arbre 

D'une carcasse ou d'un linceul, 
Qui fait trembler comme un aieul, 
Et qui vous rend, quand on est seul, 
Blanc comme un marbre.' 

He would say with Gerard de Nerval 1 : ' Grains dans 
le mur aveugle un regard qui t'epie.' 

He puts this same spirit into his landscapes for ex- 
ample in ' Le Pacage ' from Dans les Brandes : 

' Couleuvre gigantesque, il s'allonge et se tord, 
Tatoue de marais, herisse de viornes, 
Entre deux grands taillis mysterieux et mornes 
Qui semblent revetus d'un feuillage de mort. . . . 

Ses buissons ou rode un eternel chuchoteur 
Semblent faits pour les yeux des noirs visionnaires ; 
Chaque marais croupit sous des joncs centenaires 
Presque surnaturels a force de hauteur. . . . 

Aussi 1'ceil du poete hallucine sans treve 

En boit avidement Paustere etrangete. 

Pour ce pale voyant ce pacage est broute' 

Par un betail magique et tout charge de reve. . . . 

1 Gerard de Nerval, a philosopher, has a pantheistic conception lacking in 


En automne surtout, a 1'heure deja froide, 

Ou 1'horizon decroit sous le ciel assombri, 

Alors qu'en voletant 1'oiseau cherche un abri, 

Et que les bceufs s'en vont 1'ceil fixe et le cou roide ; 

J'aimais a me trouver dans ce grand prd, tout seul, 
Fauve et mysterieux comme un loup dans son antre, 
Et je marchais, ayant de 1'herbe jusqu'au ventre, 
Cependant que la nuit deVoulait son linceul. 

Alors au fatidique hou-hou-hou des chouettes, 
Aux coax revelant d'invisibles marais, 
La croissante pe'nombre ou je m'aventurais 
Fourmillait vaguement d'horribles silhouettes. 

Puis aux lointains sanglots d'un sinistre aboyeur 
Les taureaux se ruaient comme un troupeau de buffles, 
Et parfois je frolais des fanons, et des mufles 
Dont le souffle brulant me glagait de frayeur.' 

Directly inspired by Poe, too, are such poems as l Le 
Fantome d'Ursule,' * L'Enterre Vif,' < Les Dents,' and 
the prose tale 'Le Manoir Tragique,' the vision of two 
knights visibly enemies, a harp which plays of itself, a 
woman's voice singing, and, finally, the apparition of the 
woman and the melodramatic tale Rollinat weaves from 
this material. 

In Rollinat again we find the Baudelairian habit of 
regarding the universe sub specie ceternitatis. 

In his Ruminations we find the following passage : 

'Announcements of birth, marriage, decease, are identical for 
Time, who reads them all three with the same eye in the tomb, 
since for him fixed for ever in his solitary immanence, indefinite 
arrivals in the world, marriages here on earth, departure from earth, 
are accomplished all together at the same hour of eternity; that 
which must cease to live is already dead.' 

And this from En Errant : 

' For him who evokes funereal thoughts and who in the sanctuary 
of a cold wan church suddenly sees a bride all dressed and veiled 
in white enter with her company, is it not the sudden apparition of 
death dressed up and heading with pomp and solemnity the train 
of the living he leads to the tomb ? ' 


He has the same desire to pierce below the surface of 
things : 

1 Who knows what dreadful beds of slime lie under the most 
brilliantly flourishing grass, the most radiantly scintillating water? 
Who knows what a foundation of stagnant horror, of serried sadness 
is under the most brightly shining eyes, the most charming ex- 
pressions of a smile ? ' 

This is the old, old question : 

' I sometimes think that never blows so red 
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled ; 
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears 
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head. 

And this delightful Herb whose tender Green 
Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean 
Ah, lean upon it lightly ! for who knows 
From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen ! ' 

The love of perfumes 

' (1'on a beau 

Vivre ainsi qu'un cadavre au fond de son tombeau 
Les parfums sont toujours des illusions neuves) ' 

is another Baudelairism. 

Rollinat, too, has all the Baudelairian animism. He 
says of the moon : 

1 Elle argente sur les talus 
Les vieux troncs d'arbres vermoulus 
Et rend les saules chevelus 

Si fantastiques, 
Qu'a ses rayons ensorceleurs 
Us ont Pair de femmes en pleurs 
Qui penchent au vent des douleurs 

Leurs fronts mystiques.' La Lime. 

And the same temper is found in such pieces as * Le 
Champ du Diable,' < Vapeur des Mares,' ' La Voix du 
Vent' (Pay sages el pay sans) : 

' Le soir, la solitude et la neige s'entendent 
Pour faire un paysage affreux de cet endroit 
Ble'missant au milieu dans un demi jour froid, 
Tandis que ses lointains d'obscurite se tendent. 


Qa et la des etangs dont les glaces se fendent 

Avec un mauvais bruit qui suscite 1'effroi ; 

La-bas dans une terre ou le vague s'accroit, 

Des corbeaux qui s'en vont et d'autres qui s'attendent. 

Voici qu'une vapeur voilee 

Sort d'une mare degele'e, 

Puis d'une autre et d'une autre encor. 

Lugubre hommage en quelque sorte 
Qui lentement vers le ciel mort 
Monte de la campagne morte.' 

' Les nuits d'hiver, quand le vent pleure 
Se plaint, hurle, siffle et vagit, 
On ne salt quel drame surgit 
Dans Phomme ainsi qu'en la demeure. 

Sa grande musique mineure 
Qui tour a tour, grince et mugit, 
Sur toute la pensee agit 
Comme une voix interieure. 

Ces cris, cette clameur immense 
Chantent la rage, la demence, 
La peur, le crime, le remords. . . . 

Et voluptueux et funebres 
Accompagnent dans les tenebres 
Les rales d'amour et de mort.' 

Nor is the Baudelairian bitterness lacking : 

* Mon cceur repentant 
Dont tu te moques, 

O Satan, 

Est en 


Oh ! les noirs soliloques 
Que je marmotte en boitant ! ' 

Again the piece entitled ' La Gueule ' : 

4 O fatale rencontre ! au fond d'un chemin creux 
Se chauffait au soleil, sur le talus ocreux, 
Un reptile aussi long qu'un manche de quenouille. 
Mais le saut effare d'une pauvre grenouille 
Montrait que le serpent ne dormait qu'k moitie 1 
Et je laissai, 1'horreur etranglant ma pitie, 


Sa gueule se distendre et, toute grande ouverte, 

Se fermer lentement sur la victime verte. 

Puis le sommeil reprit le hideux animal. 

La grenouille, c'est moi ! Le serpent, c'est le mal ! ' 

The piece called ' Le Solitaire,' 

* Au sommet de la tour etrange 
Habite un enorme crapaud. 
Qui peut t'avoir porte' si haut ? 
Est-ce un diable ou bien est-ce un ange ? ' 

though directly inspired by Tristan Corbiere, shows 
strikingly the Baudelairian habit of regarding things 
from their disquieting standpoint. 

The demands Rollinat makes as to the tastes of his 
ideal woman constitute a kind of Baudelairian creed : 

* Lis-tu dans la nature ainsi qu'en un grand livre ? 
En toi 1'instinct du mal a-t-il garde son mors ? 
Preferes-tu, trouvant que la douleur enivre, 
Le sanglot des vivants au mutisme des morts ? 

Et les chats, les grands chats dont la caresse griffe, 
Quand ils sont devant 1'atre accroupis de travers, 
Saurais-tu dechiffrer le vivant logogriphe 
Qu'allume le phosphore au fond de leurs yeux verts ? 

As-tu peur du remords plus que du mal physique, 
Et vas-tu dans Pascal abreuver ta douleur ? 
Chopin est-il pour toi 1'Ange de la musique, 
Et Delacroix le grand sorcier de la couleur ? 

As-tu le rire triste et les larmes sinceres, 
Le mepris sans effort, 1'orgueil sans vanite ? 
Fuis-tu les coeurs banals et les esprits faussaires 
Dans Pasile du reve et de la verite ? ' L Introuvablc. 

So much, then, for the disciple's debt. Now in what 
way did Rollinat surpass his master? Above all by his 
lack of pose, and love of nature. 

Rollinat had none of the Baudelairian hatred of the 
natural merely in so far as it is natural, and Nature in the 
landscape sense of the word was a great resource for him, 
whereas for Baudelaire it held none. Thus Rollinat is 
not Baudelairian when he writes : 


f Vague du spleen, en vain centre moi tu deferles 
Sous 1'arceau de verdure ou passent des frissons, 
J'ai pour me divertir le bruit que font les merles 
Avec leur voix aigue egreneuse de perles ! 
Et de meme qu'ils sont les rires des buissons, 
La petite grenouille est Tame des cressons.' 

Le Chemin aux merles. 

Nor when he delights in the fact that he is the confidant 
of Nature's children : 

1 A moi le loup rodant 
Et les muets cloportes ! 
Les choses qu'on dit mortes 
M'ont pris pour confident.' Le petit Fantdme. 

He repeats the same thing a little further on : 

* Alors, je comprenais le mystere des choses. 
Ce verbe de-parfums que chuchotent les roses 

Vibrait tendre dans mes douleurs : 
Ce qui pleure ou qui rit, ce qui hurle ou qui chante, 
Tout me parlait alors d'une voix si touchante 
Que mes yeux se mouillaient de pleurs.' La Confidence. 

One more example which owes nothing to Baudelaire: 

* La chanson de la perdrix grise, 
Ou la complainte des grillons, 
C'est la musique des sillons 
Que j'ai toujours si bien comprise. 

Sous 1'azur, dans Fair qui me grise, 
Se mele au vol des papillons 
La chanson de la perdrix grise 
Ou la complainte des grillons. 

Et 1'ennui qui me martyrise 

Me darde en vain ses aiguillons, 

Puisqu'a 1'abri des chauds rayons 

J'entends sur Paile de la brise 

La chanson de la perdrix grise.' 

Here is a domain beyond the reach of Baudelaire, and 
through the possession of which Rollinat is happier, 
saner, greater than his master. Had this side been only 
a little stronger, how much better it would have been for 
Rollinat ! But this is the weaker side of his temperament. 
His was a mind unbalanced, and towards the end of his 
life, under stress of domestic trouble, reason tottered, and 
before his death completely abandoned him. 



GEORGES RODENBACH is the first of the line of Belgians 
whose work belongs to French literature, just as the 
modern Irish literature is counted as English ; any ex- 
clusion of these poets on the ground of nationality were 
but artificial. 

Rodenbach was born in 1855 at Tournay, where he was 
educated till 1875, when he entered the University of Gand, 
graduating there as Doctor of Law. He then went to Paris 
and availed himself of the opportunities of hearing the 
famous lawyers. After winning a reputation for himself 
as a lawyer, he retired again to Belgium, forsaking law for 
literature, giving himself up to that melancholy contem- 
plative vein which is his characteristic, and the outcome, 
as in the case of so many of Baudelaire's descendants, of 
his imperfect health. Lemaitre has well said of Roden- 
bach : * Few men have possessed to so high a degree the 
precious gift of amusing themselves with being sad.' 

During these years in Belgium he wrote Tristesses 
(1879), UHiver Mondain (1884), Jeunesse blanche (1886), 
Mer elegante (i^). 

In 1887 he came to Paris again. He was a member of 
that literary cenacle who founded the club des Hydropathes^ 
and of which Maurice Rollinat, Paul Arene, Emile 
Goudeau, Paul Bourget, Bastien Lepage, and Sarah Bern-* 
hardt were members. It was in this club that he read 
his novel L! Art en Exil, and from this moment date his 


more important works LArt en Exil, a novel (1889), 
Le Regne du Silence, verse (1889), Bruges la Morte, a 
novel (1892), Voyage dans les Yeux, verse (1893), 
Musee des Beguines, prose (1894), L& Voile > drama in 
verse (1894), L& Miroir du del natal, poems (1894), 
L'Arbre, a tale (1898). He died in Paris in 1898 on 
Christmas morning. 

By a curious irony of fate his last work was a poem on 
the New Year he was never to see. We quote one or two 
stanzas : 

' La buche lentement dans Patre se consume ; 
La chambre songe, encore un peu enluminee 
Par la buche qui est deja presque posthume, 
Chaleur de la derniere buche de Pannee ! ' 

' Ainsi les choses vont. 
Tout se hate, trebuche 
Dans Peternite sans fond, 
L'annee avec la buche, 

La buche avec Pannee, 
On entend s'affliger le vent 
Et tout va s'achevant 
En un peu de fume'e. . . . 

Une nouvelle annee encor ! 

Le vent dans la cheminee 

N'est plus triste comme le son du cor. 

Encore une nouvelle annee ! 

Encore une buche allumee ! ' 

In the work of Rodenbach we find at once many 
characteristics derived from Baudelaire. There is the 
same fear of ennui : 

' La peur que demain soit comme aujourd'hui, 
Que Pheure jamais ne sonne autre chose.' 

La Vie des chambres XV. 

And as the Baudelairians before him, Rodenbach finds 
the same remedy, that is in his dreams. * Mon ame,' he 


' . . . . se console avec la vie en songe 
La vie emmaillote'e aux langes du mensonge.' 

His prayer therefore is, 

' O Seigneur, donnez-moi un r6ve quotidien. . . .' 

Rodenbach is himself like the hero of his L Art en 
Exit, for whom in the end ' dreams have become more 
lifelike, more tangible than the realities around him.' 

For Rodenbach, as for Baudelaire, mystery has a pro- 
found attraction through its suggestiveness. The idea of 
something hidden for instance the costume of a nun 
never ceased to set him dreaming. In his Musee des 
Beguines (1894), a whole volume is given up to their 
study. In Le Voile (1894), a drama in verse, the hero 
believes himself to have fallen in love with the beguine 
who has been sent to nurse his old dying aunt. The one 
question that haunts him is the problem of the colour of 
the beguine's hair. He questions her on the subject, but 
she will tell him nothing. One night he is hurriedly 
summoned to the old aunt's bedside. Arriving there he 
finds the beguine, who has come from her room in similar 
haste and without her hood. He sees the colour of her 
hair the mystery is at an end, and with it the attraction : 

* Or mon amour fait de mystere, d'inconnu, 
Meurt du voile leve, des cheveux mis a nu . . . 
Je la vois ce qu'elle est ; ne la retrouvant plus 
Comme 1'imaginait mon amour de reclus, 
Et sans plus son halo de linge en aureole ! 
C'est fini ! Tout 1'amour brusquement s'etiole 
De trop savoir. L'amour a besoin d'un secret.' 

He is of the same opinion as Rollinat, who wrote in his 
Ruminations : ' Woman, like the sea, attracts us far more 
by her fathomless mystery than by any brilliance of 

The same idea recurs in his story L'Art en ExiL 


Here again the hero is attracted by the mystery of a 
nun. He marries her. Then comes the disillusion she 
is far from realising his exceptional hopes. He gives 
her Wagner's music she will not play it. He reads 
his favourite poets to her Baudelaire and Hugo she 
does not listen. It is still worse when he comes to 
compose his great poem of which he had dreamed so 
long : 

4 This dreamed-of poem was only a symbol, the symbol ]of his 
own life stagnant among the cold stones, exhausted but harmonious 
as bells across the mist ; pierced with little light, a sister of those 
suburbs where the lamps are few.' 

He works at it with great enthusiasm : 

'With one great effort he had raised high this tower of his 
sorrow, the materials for which had lain so long unused in the 
dust of his soul.' 

Finally he reads it to his wife, who completes the 
growing disillusion by inquiring how much money the 
poem will bring in : ' She had understood the frenzy of 
the Cross, she could not understand the frenzy of Art.' 

Love of the mysterious has played him a cruel trick : 
< She was like all other women.' 

The Baudelairian impossibility to gaze on a cradle 
without being led to think of a tomb is also present in 
Rodenbach. Take, for instance, the poem he composed 
on an infant who died immediately after its baptism, and 
the reflections he makes : 

' Hdlas ! Thiver touche au printemps, 
Et la mort touche a la naissance. 

L'aube a son sourire et ses pleurs, 
L'air ses vautours et ses colombes, 
Sous la verdure et sous les fleurs 
Naissent les berceaux et les tombes ! 


On fait souvent un linceul froid 
D'un voile de fete splendide : 
On construit un cercueil etroit 
Avec le bois d'un berceau vide ! . . .' 

The most distinctive trait of Rodenbach's writings is 
his love of assigning a reasoning existence to the in- 
animate world around him ; he carries this Baudelairian 
faculty to a very high pitch. 

He loved those ' troubled hours when ' 

' Tout devient nostalgique et commemoratif ; 
Le jet d'eau raccourci prend la forme d'un if ; 
La fumee, au-dessus du douteux paysage, 
Doucement se devoile en langoureux tissu 
Ou menace, dans Pair, un texte entr'apercu, 
Et dans la lune pale, on a peur d'un visage.' 

Au Fil de Fame^ xii. 

Like Gerard de Nerval and Rollinat, he feared a watch- 
ing eye in the blank wall. As he explains it, 
* Or mes yeux sont aussi les vitres condamnees 
D'une maison en deuil du depart des annees, 
Et c'est pourquoi, du fond de ces lointains du nord, 
Je me sens regarde par ces yeux sans envie 
Qui ne se tournent plus du cot6 de la vie, 
Mais sont orientes du cote du tombeau.' Paysages de Ville, iv. 

A considerable division of his volume called Le Regne 
du Silence is devoted to the consideration of la vie des 
chambres. Here is a good example of his attitude : 

4 L'obscurite, dans les chambres, le soir, est une 
Irreconciliable apporteuse de craintes ; 
En deuil, s'habillant d'ombre et de linges de lune, 
Elle inquiete ; elle a de felines etreintes, 
Comme une eau des canaux traitres ou Ton se noie. 
L'obscurite, c'est la tueuse de la Joie 
Qui deperit, bouquet de roses transitoires, 
Quand elle y verse un peu de ses fioles noires. 
L'obscurite s'installe avec le crepuscule ; 
Elle descend dans Fame aussi qui s'entdnebre ; 
Sur le miroir heureux tombe un crepe funebre ; 
La clarte, dirait-on, est blessee et recule 
Vers la fenetre ou s'offre un linceul de dentelle. . . .' etc. 


In the same way he is profoundly affected by the 
contemplation of what he calls le cosur de Feau. 

' Son amour du repos, son degout de la vie 
Sont si contagieux que plus d'un 1'a suivie 
Dans la chapelle d'ombre au fond pieux des eaux 
Oil, tranquille, elle chante au pied des longs roseaux 
Dont 1'orgue aux verts tuyaux 1'accompagnent en sourdine.' 

One more quotation this time from Le Miroir du del 
Natal : 

* La Nuit est seule, comme un pauvre. 
Les reverberes offrent 
Leur flamme jaune 
Comme une aumone. 

La Nuit se tait comme une eglise close. 

Les reverberes melancoliques 

Ouvrent leur flamme rose, 

Comme des bouquets de lumieres, 
Des bouquets sous un verre et qui sont des reliques, 
Par qui la Nuit s'emplit d'Indulgences plenieres. 

La Nuit souffre ! 
Les reverberes en choeur 
Dardent leur flamme rouge et souffre 

Comme des ex-votos, 

Comme des Sacre-Coaur, 
Que le vent fait saigner avec ses froids couteaux. 

La Nuit s'exalte ! 
Les reVerberes a la file 
Deficient leur flamme bleue 
Dans les banlieues, 
Comme des ames qui font halte, 
Les ames en chemin des morts de la journee, 
Qui revent d'entrer dans leur maison fermee, 
Et s'attardent longtemps aux portes de la ville.' 

Les Reverberes. 

So intense does this life of objects become, according 
to Rodenbach, that it develops an extraordinary power 
of suggestion. There is a tale in his Contes posthumes 
which is a striking example of this. It is the story of a 
man, who, though in reality much attached to his wife, 


becomes irritated by her, and on a sudden impulse kills 
her. The source of this impulse was a passing train : 

1 In the blackness of night a black train. It passed by with the 
sound of disaster, uttering a piercing shriek. I only noticed 
one thing: the lamp in front of the engine. It was red, a 
fearful red like a recent wound, an enormous round wound. The 
night seemed wounded. This great red spot was blood. Yes, the 
wound was bleeding, but the blood could hardly coagulate ; then 
suddenly it seemed as if the blood of this light overflowed ; the red 
wound widened, came nearer, splashed over my eyes, my hands, the 
whole country. An immense wound ! Was the night going to die ? 
Now at that very second I conceived the idea of the murder.' 

In the same way in the Preface of his Bruges la Morte, 
that record of a man's failure to rehabilitate the ideal of 
his dead wife in a living woman who resembled her, he 
says : 

* In this study of passion we have wished at the same time 
and above all to evoke a city, the city as an essential character 
associated with the states of mind that counsel, dissuade, and 
determine action. Thus, in reality, this Bruges that it has pleased 
us to describe seems almost human. . . . An influence is established 
by her upon those who stay there. She fashions them in accordance 
with her sites and steeples. That is what we hoped to suggest : the 
city directing action ; and the scenery of the city not merely like the 
background of a picture, in descriptive themes somewhat arbitrarily 
chosen, but bound to the whole plot of the book.' 

Critics have often reproached Rodenbach for always 
laying his scenes in Bruges, for not varying his back- 
ground. The objection seems to us an idle one like 
crying out against Mr. Kipling for using India as his 
setting, or against Mr. Hardy for his similar use of 
Wessex. It matters little that the poet uses the same 
background so long as with it he has something fresh 
to say. But this is precisely where Rodenbach fails 
once start him on an idea and he wears it threadbare. 
He finds Sundays very tiresome, aid repeats the fact 


throughout a hundred pages. After reading them, we 
feel we have lived through months of Sundays. 

Fiction, like history, only records the exceptional, still 
more then do we demand the exceptional from poetry. 
It is well for the poet 

' To see a world in a grain of sand 
And a heaven in a wild flower.' 

The mystery of Nature will be always moving ; but 
we find it difficult to be moved by the aspirations of a 
weathercock. Not so Rodenbach : 

' En ces villes qu'attriste un chceur de girouettes, 
Oiseaux de fer revant de fuir au haut des airs.' 

And here are the feelings of the water in an aquarium : 

* Dans le verre elle s'est close et se tient coite, 
Moins en souci des vains reflets et du reel, 
Que d'etre ainsi quelque mystere qui scintille. . . . 
Avec 1'orgueil un peu triste d'etre inutile ! ' Les Vies encloses^ xi. 

Bells too form a varied society : 

( D'autres cloches sont des beguines 
Qui sortent, 1'une apres 1'autre, de leur clocher, 
Tel que d'un couvent, a matines, 
Et se hatent en un cheminement frileux, 
Comme s'il allait neiger. . . . 

II en est, en robes de bronze, 

Qui tintent, tintent ; 

Et s'eloignent, geignant des plaintes indistinctes, 

Et des demandes sans reponse. 

II en est qui vivotent seules, 

Comme des aieules, 
Dans la tristesse et le brouillard ; 
Et qui ont toujours Fair, 

Dans 1'air, 
De suivre un corbillard.' Les Cloches. 

And since a town has a life of its own, it follows that 
it can also have an illness : 

' La maladie atteint aussi les pauvres villes . . . 
Telles vont deperir d'un mal confus et doux ; 


A peine elles naissent ; mais leurs cloches debiles 
Sont comme les acces d'une petite toux.' 

Stevenson says in his * Essay on Gas Lamps ' that with 
their invention the work of Prometheus had advanced by 
another stride. ' The city folk had stars of their own ; 
biddable, domesticated stars.' Rodenbach is of the same 
opinion, and devoted a whole series of poems to Les 
Reverberes. Here again he has harped too long on one 
string, has carried his theories too far. 1 Of a room at 
the hour of lighting the lamps he says : 

' Le vieux salon comme un veuf, 
Accable par Pombre unie au silence ; 
On dirait maintenant qu'il se recommence 

Avec un coeur neuf.' Les Lampes^ xii. 

Or again : 

' La chambre s'etonne 
De ce bonheur qui dure ; 
Elle rit, elle est guerie 
De la pauvrete d'etre obscure . . . 
Elle est comme celui qui a regu 1'aumone.' Les Lampes, i. 

In the same way does night take pity on an old wall : 

' Or la Lune est montee au ciel dans un halo, 
Et les carillons noirs egrenent leur rosaire . . . 
C'est alors que le Soir, soudain apitoye 
Pour les vieux murs que nul n'assiste en leurs desastres, 
Envoie a tel ou tel vieux mur pauvre et ploye 
Des linges de lumiere et des aumones d'astres.' 

1 It is very interesting to see what Huysmans thought of Rodenbach j he is 
entirely untroubled by any literary jealousy of the latter. Here is what he says : 
* Rodenbach was one of the most extraordinary virtuosi of our time. Upon one 
or two themes that he chose from among those whose originality had not struck 
any one else, he broidered the most delicate variations, continually using unex- 
pected comparisons, new metaphors. Imagine one of those fruitless poetical 
competitions, with the given subject Street Lamps ; every one would think it a 
thankless task to develop such a theme, and would rack his brains to throw off 
a few lines. He made light of these difficulties and set down, in honour of these 
lamps, seven improbable charming poems, full of unknown comparisons and 
hitherto hardly suspected analogies ; he gave life to these street lights, trans- 
formed them into sensitive beings, whose plaints he then related with great 
tenderness.' Huysmans, De tout, p. 215. 


Baudelaire's love of the exceptional would have kept 
him from these pitfalls of animism ; but if Rodenbach 
loves the exceptional, it is only in so far as it is embodied 
in the commonplace objects around us. Herein he is 
simpler than Baudelaire. If he borrowed from the Fleurs 
du Mai, it was from their pious side, for example, in his 
poems on the Host : 

' O le beau clair de lune qu'est Phostie ; 

Le pretre a 1'autel 1'a brandie ; 

Et sa tonsure pale est comme une autre hostie. . . . 

Et dans 1'hostie on croit voir par moments 

La face de Jesus s'ebaucher en du sang 

A cause des reflets des cierges par moments.' 

Rodenbach's books are like the town he celebrated so 
often and in which he spent his youth, by those dreamy 
canals whose banks are ever the haunt of memories. 

They have the veiled charm of Flemish landscape, the 
devout perfume of that Bruges long since sanctified by 
Memlinc, where at evening the lights before its convents 
are like nuns watching before an altar. 

The chimes dancing up and down the stairs of the black 
gables, the beguinage with its daisy-enamelled pavement, 
the convents with their crumbling stone walls, and all those 
primitive Flemish masterpieces impregnate the old town's 
heroic, pious, past history with a strange enchantment. 

You will find exactly the same thing in Rodenbach's 




AMONG the modern poets, the Symbolist school in its 
very essence owes something to the Baudelairians. 

In the first place, it is a suggestive school, and 
suggestion as opposed to didactics is one of the chief 
Baudelairian weapons suggerer tout rhomme par tout 
Part? one of their highest aims. The Symbolists use 
myth and legend for their aims. These are no new 
weapons, but they are put to a new use ; they no longer 
serve as brilliant romantic anecdotes. The Symbolists 
in France (just as Hebbel and Gerhard Hauptmann in 
Germany) use them purely for their suggestiveness, and 
this is a Baudelairian attitude. 

M. Remy de Gourmont, speaking of the Symbolist 
school, says that with it 'a new truth has entered into 
literature and art the principle of the ideality of the world.' 

This principle was already present in one aspect of 
Villiers de 1'Isle Adam's writings, in those of Barbey 
d'Aurevilly, and of Rollinat. 

It is by this aspect of his work that Mallarme, the 
leader of the Symbolists, is Baudelairian. 

Mallarme's importance lies not so much in the very 

1 The Symbolist school has at last found its philosopher in the person of 
M. Henri Bergson. The affirmation of unconscious psychical states is one of 
the essential doctrines of M. Bergson's philosophy, and at the same time the 
great truth after which the Symbolists were groping. The enthusiasm with 
which M. Bergson tries to bring to light the inexpressible in the life of the soul 
makes him not only the real theoretician of this school but a great poet as well. 


slender bulk of his writings, as in the influence that he 
himself had on the younger generation that loved to 
gather round him. He belongs to that race of causeurs 
upon whom, while they talk, ideas come thronging with 
perfect clearness, but from whom lucidity is the first trait 
to recede when they take pen in hand, and would transfer 
their ideas to paper. Mallarme was more than a poet, he 
was a theorist and, as such, an educator. It was in his 
rooms in the Rue de Rome, on the famous Tuesday 
evenings, that he talked great literature for twenty years, 
while all artistic Paris listened. He was the last aesthete 
of language and we are still waiting for his Boswell. 

We who have not heard him talk, who were not present 
at his explanations of his ideas, cannot fully penetrate his 
work ; yet uninitiated though we be, we can hope to under- 
stand the general tendency, and we do find delight in his 
subtle art. 

It was Huysmans who first revealed Mallarme to the 
general public. 1 And in his criticism Huysmans touches 
on one of the points wherein Mallarme is carrying on the 
Baudelairian theory of correspondences. For it is this 
doctrine that leads Mallarme, in Huysmans' words, 

' perceiving the most distant analogies ... to designate often with 
a single term which gives at once, by an effect of resemblance, 
the form, perfume, colour, quality, brilliance of the object or being 
to which he would have to couple many different epithets in order 
to bring out all its appearances, all its shades, had it been merely 
indicated by its technical name.' 

The most striking trait of Mallarme's work is his effort 
to extract the extraordinary, the exceptional from the 
most commonplace act or object. The Nenuphar Blanc 
is a good example of this with its portrayal of the man 
rowing towards a garden on the river, and striving in the 
meantime to idealise the aspect of his actions and thoughts. 

1 A Rebours, p. 260. 


In another of his prose sketches, Le Spectacle Interrompu, 
he exclaims : 

I How far is civilisation from procuring the delight attributable to 
this state ! It is astonishing, for example, that there does not exist 
an association in every great town of the dreamers living there to 
subscribe to a paper which should report events in that light likely 
to produce a dream.' 

The conclusion of the sketch is eminently charac- 
teristic : 

I 1 got up like every one else to breathe the air outside, astonished 
once more at not having received the same impression as my kind, 
but serene : for my point of view was after all superior and even 
the right one.' 

Mallarme's work reposes in this way on a philosophical 
basis, of which the keynote is the postulate that the world 
in which we live is only a pure conception of the mind, a 
theory which of course is to be found in the philosophy 
of Plato or of Fichte or of Hegel. Thence he set out to 
try and write a poetry which should be the fusion of all 
our thoughts and emotions ; a poetry which should 
embrace the whole universe. Each line must be at one 
and the same time a thought, a feeling, and a picture ; 
each word must be a precious stone fitting into the 
mosaic of the whole. Obviously such poems cannot be 
of dazzling clearness. 

1 Le ciel est mort. Vers toi, j'accours ! donne, 6 matiere 
L'oubli de 1' I deal cruel, et du Peche' 
A ce martyr qui vient partager la litiere 
Ou le betail heureux des hommes est coucheY 

says Mallarme, with Baudelairian melancholy. 

This melancholy, too, is a humour in which Mallarme 
likes to indulge. 

* Ma songerie aimant a me martyriser 
S'enivrant savamment du parfum de tristesse 
Que meme sans regret et sans deboire laisse 
La cueillaison d'un reve au coeur qui Fa cueilli.' 


The debt to Baudelaire is again clear in his sonnet 
* Le Sonneur ' : 


* Cependant que la cloche eveille sa voix claire 
A 1'air pur et limpide et profond du matin, 
Et passe sur 1'enfant qui jette pour lui plaire 
Un angelus parmi la lavande et le thym, 
Le sonneur effleure par 1'oiseau qu'il eclaire, 
Chevauchant tristement en geignant du latin 
Sur la pierre qui tend la corde seculaire, 
N'entend descendre a lui qu'un tintement lointain. 
Je suis cet homme. Helas ! de la nuit desireuse, 
J'ai beau tirer le cable a sonner 1' I deal, 
De froids peches s'ebat un plumage feal, 
Et la voix ne me vient que par bribes et creuse ! 
Mais, un jour, fatigue d'avoir enfin tire, 
O Satan, j'oterai la pierre et me pendrai.' 

And the ennui of Herodias takes on the same charac- 
teristics under Mallarme's touch : 

' O miroir ! 

Eau froide par 1'ennui dans ton cadre gelee, 
Que de fois, et pendant les heures, ddsolee 
Des songes et cherchant mes souvenirs qui sont 
Comme des feuilles sous ta glace au trou profond, 
Je m'apparus en toi comme une ombre lointaine ! 
Mais, horreur ! des soirs, dans ta severe fontaine, 
J'ai de mon reve pars connu la nudite ! ' 

The same Baudelairian debt is perceptible in the follow- 
ing piece : 


' La chair est triste, he'las ! et j'ai lu tous les livres. 
Fuir ! la-bas fuir ! Je sens que des oiseaux sont ivres 
D'etre parmi 1'ecume inconnue et les cieux ! 
Rien, ni les vieux jardins re"fletes par les yeux 
Ne retiendra ce cceur qui dans la mer se trempe, 
O nuits ! ni la clarte deserte de ma lampe 
Sur le vide papier que la blancheur deTend, 
Et ni la jeune femme allaitant son enfant. 
Je partirai ! Steamer balan^ant ta mature 
Leve 1'ancre pour une exotique nature ! 


Un Ennui, desole' par les cruels espoirs, 
Croit encore a 1'adieu supreme des mouchoirs ! 
Et, peut-etre, les mits, invitant les orages 
Sont-ils de ceux qu'un vent penche sur les naufrages 
Perdus, sans mats, sans mats, ni fertiles ilots . . . 
Mais, 6 mon coeur, entend le chant des matelots ! ' 

Artists are sometimes terribly discerning. The frontis- 
piece to the volume of Mallarme's poems is an etching by 
Felicien Rops, showing the poet seated on a chair, the 
back of which is a mark of interrogation. 

For Mallarme, our subconsciousness seems to have 
been this mark of interrogation. ' Every clear idea,' he 
would reason, ' has been expressed by my predecessors. 
It only remains to force the great waves in the ocean of 
our subconsciousness to some stammering utterance.' 

Rodenbach had set forth on the same errand. He 
said : 

Nous ne savons de notre ame que la surface. 

Then came Mallarme, who in his turn aimed at 
showing that our knowledge of our soul is the merest 

Looked at in this way, poetry is no longer the 
commonplace story of a poet's life, a kind of Words- 
worthian Prelude ; rather is it a breath from the inner, 
unknown, true life of the soul. 

If you turn to Mallarme's poem, Le Tombeau de 
Charles Baudelaire, written to honour the later poet's 
master, you find two or three images born in the troubled 
depths of subconsciousness covering the whole piece with 
a kind of opium-atmosphere. 

The Baudelairians loved the autumn of things ; the 
freshness of spring makes no appeal, while the sad 
promiseless beauty of autumn is full of suggestiveness. 
It is the same with Mallarme ; he loves to contemplate 
la grace des choses fanees. He confesses to a fondness 
for everything, which is implied by the word chute : 


'Thus, in the year my favourite season is in those last languid 
days of summer which immediately precede autumn; and in the day 
the hour at which I take my walk is when the sun rests, before dis- 
appearing, with brassy light on the grey walls, and coppery light on 
the windows. In the same way the literature in which my soul seeks 
delight is the dying poetry of Rome's last moments though only 
so long as it holds no hint of the rejuvenating approach of the 
Barbarians, and does not stammer the childish Latin of early 
Christian prose.' 

These literary tastes seem like a reminiscence of 

Mallarme was a far greater idealist than Baudelaire. 
The Poesque love of the horrible has no counterpart in 
his work, though Poe as a poet he admired immensely, 
translating first ' the Raven,* and finally all the poems, 
into a prose version which is frequently more beautiful 
than the original, and though Dr. Johnson would condemn, 
we take the liberty of being grateful. The pity was that 
Mallarme carried the Baudelairian hatred of * popular* 
art to its highest degree, finally translating ' popular ' 
by l intelligible.' The extraordinary lyric power of his 
' Herodiade ' only makes us the more regret the im- 
penetrable obscurity of much of his more advanced work. 

The dignity of classical drama, with its refusal to 
include the people in its roles, has made it a dead thing. 
The intense aloofness of Mallarme's school has been 
the cause of its ultimate failure. Still, in parting with 
Mallarme we may quote those words of Huysmans who 
rightly loved the poet : 

'Who in a century of universal suffrage, in an age of lucre, 
sheltered from the stupidity around him by his disdain, taking 
pleasure, far from the world in the surprises of the intellect, grafting 
them with Byzantine artifice, perpetuating them in lightly sketched 
deductions which a scarcely perceptible thread held together.' 



ALBERT SAMAIN, a native of Lille, was born in 1859. 
He left school to become a bank clerk, continuing his 
reading in the meanwhile. His talent was of slow de- 
velopment. In 1882 he came to Paris, and obtained 
employment at the Prefecture de la Seine. He wrote for 
the Chat Noir, Scapin, and the Mercure de France, in 
which last were published most of the poems of \htjardin 
de V Infante. It was not until 1893 that he was persuaded 
to publish separately the Jardin de V Infante, which at 
once attracted a great deal of notice. 

Samain is full of early romanticism, of the romanticism 
of the 1830 period. There is the same voluntary sadness, 
the same regrets, the same contempt for commonplace, 
the same pessimism. 

1 La Vie est comme un grand violon qui sanglote . . . 
O mon cceur, laisse-moi m'envelopper d'ailleurs, 
Laisse la rue a ceux que leur ame importune, 
Pour toi respire, ainsi qu'un tresor clandestin, 
Le lys de solitude a ton balcon hautain. . . .' 

But his second volume, Aux Flancs du Vase (1898), 
revealed a different temper, more sincere and more 
original. Soon after the publication of this volume he 
suffered a severe blow in the loss of his mother, with 
whom he had always lived, and for whom he had shown 
such a deep devotion. He had long suffered from a lung 
affection, and after travelling in search of cure, first to 


Villefranche and then to Magny-les-Hameaux, he died in 

Samain had a great admiration for Edgar Poe. In the 
Notes Incites we find this entry : 

* I have been reading Poe this week. Decidedly he is to be 
ranked among the greatest. The powerfulness of his conceptions, 
the magnificence of his hypotheses, the marvellous force of his 
imagination which is always regulated and maintained by an extra- 
ordinary will, render him an almost unique figure in art. If the 
word perfection could be pronounced, it is for a case like this.' 

The influence of Poe on Samain is overshadowed by 
the influence of Baudelaire, yet the poem ' Les Tenebres ' 
is full of Poesque effect : 


' Les heures de la nuit sont lentes et funebres. 
Frere, ne trembles-tu jamais en ecoutant, 
Comme un bruit sourd de mer lointaine qu'on entend, 
La respiration tragique des tenebres ? 

Les Heures de la nuit sont filles de la peur ; 
Leur souffle fait mourir Tame humble des veilleuses, 
Cependant que leurs mains froides et violeuses * 

S'allongent sous les draps pour saisir notre cceur. 

Pale, j'ecoute, au bord du silence beant ; 
La nuit autour de moi, muette et sepulcrale, 
S'ouvre comme une haute et sombre cathedrale 
Ou le bruit de mes pas fait sonner du neant. 

J'e'coute, et la sueur coule a ma tempe bleme, 
Car dans 1'ombre une main spectrale m'a tendu 
Une funebre miroir ou je vois, confondu, 
Monter vers moi du fond mon image elle-meme. 

Et peu a peu j'e'prouve a me devisager, 
Comme une inexprimable et poignante souffrance, 
Tant je me sens lointain, tant ma propre apparence 
Me semble en cet instant celle d'un etranger. 

Ma vie est Ik pourtant, tres exacte et tres vraie, 
Harnais quotidien, sonnailles de grelots, 
Comedie et roman, faux reves, faux sanglots, 
Et cette herbe des sens folle, comme 1'ivraie. . . . 


De mortelles vapeurs assiegent mon cerveau. . . . 
Une vieille en cheveux, qui rode dans les tombes, 
Ricane, en egorgeant lentement des colombes ; 
Et sa main de squelette agrippe mon manteau. . . .' 

In many places in thefardm de V Infante the influence 
of Baudelaire is very plain. In the first place, it is from 
Baudelaire that Samain gets his humour of melancholy 
disenchantment : 

* Le degout d'exister qui me remonte aux dents.' 

Fourth Sonnet of LAlUe Solitaire. 

He would say with Baudelaire : 

1 L'irrdsistible nuit etablit son empire, 
Noire, humide, funeste et pleine de frissons ' ; 

or to quote his own words : 

' Le siecle d'or se gate ainsi qu'un fruit meurtri. 
Le coeur est solitaire, et nul Sauveur n'enseigne. . . . 
Ces gouttes dans la nuit ? . . . C'est ton ame qui saigne ! 
Qui de nous le premier va jeter un grand cri ? 

Un mal ronge le monde au coeur comme une teigne, 
Car la lettre charnelle a suborn e Pesprit, 
Et nul ne voit le mur ou la main chaste ecrit : 
" Que le feu de la fete impudique s'e'teigne ! " 

L'oeil morne a parjure la lumiere benie ; 

Et la lampe, soleil fievreux de Pinsomnie, 

Luit seule en nos tombeaux d'or sombre et de velours, 

Ou, pale et succombant sous les colliers trop lourds, 
Aux sons plus tortures de Parchet plus acide, 
L'art, languide dnerve", supreme ! se suicide.' 

The opening of his song ' Accompagnement ' is pure 
Samain : 

' Tremble argente, tilleul, bouleau. . . . 
La lune s'effeuille sur Peau. . . . 

La rame tombe et se releve, 
Ma barque glisse dans le reve ! ' 

but then falls into pure Baudelaire : 

' Des deux rames que je balance, 
L'une est Langueur, Pautre est Silence. . . . 


Comme la lune sur les eaux, 
Comme la rame sur les flots, 
Mon ame s'effeuille en sanglots ! ' 

With Baudelaire, Samain would demand of his ideal 
' Sois belle et sois triste.' His love songs have a kind of 
Tristan music : 

' Pourquoi nos soirs d'amour n'ont-ils toute douceur, 
Que si Time trop pleine en lourds sanglots s'y brise ? 
La Tristesse nous hante avec sa robe grise, 
Et vit a nos cote's comme une grande sceur.' Douleur. 

Or again this from * Ermione ' 

' Et quand je te quittai, j'emportai de cette heure, 
Du ciel et de tes yeux, de ta voix et du temps, 
Un mystere a traduire en mots inconsistants, 

Le charme d'un sourire indefini qui pleure, 

Et dans Tame, un echo d'automne qui demeure, 

Comme un sanglot de cor perdu sur les etangs.' . . . 

And the same humour recurs in his 'Vieilles Cloches,' 

* La foi des nations s'en va, pauvre exilee. 
Le mauvais serviteur commande a la maison. 
L'etoile du berger aussi s'en est allee ; 
Et Notre-Dame en deuil regarde, inconsolee, 
Descendre le soleil gothique a 1'horizon. 

Une lueur encor flotte, a s'eteindre prompte, 

Rouge adieu sanglotant des pourpres de jadis. 

Nos cceurs ont froid. La nuit d'une angoisse nous dompte. . . . 

Ecoute ! . . . On chante les derniers de Profundis. 

Et voici que le spleen, le spleen lunaire monte ! ' 

Melancholy remains a dominant feature of Samain's 
poetry : 

* L'eau musicale et triste est la sceur de mon reve. 
Ma tasse est diaphane, et je porte, sans fin, 
Un cceur melancolique ou la lune se leve.' Extreme-Orient. 

His ideal of beauty must also contain something of 
the Baudelairian mystery, something undefinable. Like 
Verlaine, he would claim ' nous ne voulons que la nuance 


* Car j'ai 1'amour subtil du cre*puscule fin ' 


he says, and develops the same idea in ' Dilection ' : 

1 J'adore Pindecis, les sons, les couleurs freles, 
Tout ce qui tremble, ondule, et frissonne, et chatoie, 
Les cheveux et les yeux, 1'eau, les feuilles, la sole 
Et la spiritualite des formes greles ; . . . 

Et tel cceur d'ombre chaste, embaum de mystere, 
Ou veille, comme le rubis d'un lampadaire, 
Nuit et jour un amour mystique et solitaire.' 

Samain does not deny the beauty of the more joyous 
side of life ; he tells us that he also loves 

' La grand'rue au village, un dimanche matin, 
La vache au bord de Peau toute rose d'aurore, 
La fille aux claires dents, la feuille humide encore, 
Et le divin cristal d'un bel ceil enfantin.' 

This, however, is not the aspect that appeals to him 
most strongly : 

4 Mais je prdfere une ame a Pombre agenouille'e, 
Les grands bois a Pautomne et leur odeur mouille'e, 
La route ou tinte au soir un grelot de chevaux, 
La lune dans la chambre a travers les rideaux, 
Une main pale et douce et lente qui se pose, 
Deux grands yeux pleins d'un feu triste, et sur toute chose, 
Une voix qui voudrait sangloter et qui n'ose. . . .' 

Finally, the ideal is antiutilitarian : 

* Je suis la Coupe d'or, fille du temps paien ; 
Et depuis deux mille ans je garde, a jamais pure, 
L'incorruptible orgueil de ne servir a rien.' 

The portrayal of women in this volume is copied from 
Baudelaire. A good example is the poem * Une * : 

' Sphynx aux yeux d'emeraude, ange*lique vampire, 
Elle reve sous Por cruel de ses frisons ; 
La rougeur de sa bouche est pareille aux tisons. 
Ses yeux sont faux, son cceur est faux, son amour pire. 

Sous son front dur me'dite un songe obscur d'empire. 

Elle est la fleur superbe et froide des poisons, 

Et le p6ch6 mortel aux acres floraisons, 

De sa chair veneneuse en parfums noirs transpire. 


Stir son trone, qu'un art sombre sut tourmenter, 

Immobile, elle ecoute au loin se lamenter 

La mer des pauvres coeurs qui saignent ses blessures ; 

Et bercee aux sanglots, elle songe, et parfois 
Brule d'un regard lourd, ou couvent des luxures, 
L'iime vierge du lys qui se meurt dans ses doigts.' 

This is an attitude which scarcely harmonises with the 
almost Coventry Patmore tone of many pieces in * Aux 
Flancs du Vase.' Those features of Baudelairism which 
Samain merely copied, which are, in him, a mere pose, 
he naturally dropped as his talent became more mature. 
The volumes which follow Le Jardin de I Infante have 
very little Baudelairism in them. 

In his later poems Samain turned for inspiration to 
Antiquity ; he breaks away again from Baudelairian 
tradition. M. Leon Bocquet quotes from a letter Samain 
wrote to M. Paul Morisse (i6th December 1896) : 

' The antiquity which appeals to me is not barbaric, sinister, nor 
rugged like that in Salammbo, for example, or Leconte de Lisle's 
work ; it is rather measured, calm, and smiling as in the Homerides. 
Moreover it is not antiquity, it is simply the harmonious simple spirit 
of beauty which I feel antiquity has realised, and which is eternal 
as the limpidity of springs, as the perfume of roses.' 

Which is quite opposed to Baudelairian tradition. 

Samain lacked the force of Baudelaire ; he is, as an 
English critic has put it, 'a poet of fine shades.' His 
poetry his later poetry that is is full of a gentle 
sadness which is another thing than the passionate 
disenchantment of Baudelaire. He summed himself up 
very happily in the lines : 

' Mon ame est un velours douloureux que tout froisse ; 
Et je sens, en mon cceur lourd d'ineffable angoisse, 
Je ne sais quoi de doux, qui voudrait bien mourir.' 




M. CAMILLE MAUCLAIR in his singularly penetrating 
essay on Jules Laforgue places him among that class of 
minds whose ruling characteristic is what he names la 
diversite dans I* unite. 

'Everything tends to a single increase: comprehension by means of 
passion there is no idleness in them. They knock at all the 
multitudinous doors of feeling through which a new aspect of 
the spiritual city is to be seen, and one meets them simultaneously 
on all the roads that lead thither. . . . He (Laforgue) appears 
indeed to be of that race of writers who are not occupied first of all 
with collecting their faculties of expression for the achievement of a 
work, but desire above all to compose with them a life which shall 
be more curious, more ornate, more conscious. With the surplus of 
their mental acquisitions, and their means, they make books as if to 
show others what is going on inside them.' 

Jules Laforgue accomplished his part in a remarkably 
short time. He was born in August of 1860, and was 
brought up in Paris till he was called to Berlin to become 
reader to the Empress Augusta. In 1886 he relinquished 
this employment and came to Paris, with high hopes of 
gaining fame and fortune through his writings, and of 
happiness with that girl who skated so gracefully in 
Berlin, attracting first his artistic sense, then capturing his 
heart for the moment. He married her in the beginning 
of the year 1887 there was but short-lived happiness. 
His writings from the commercial standpoint were doomed 


to failure. He was consumptive, and poverty rapidly 
aggravated the disease, and in August of the year of his 
marriage he died, at the age of twenty-seven. 

The work he leaves behind consists of a volume of 
poems, the curious prose Moralites Legendaires^ and a 
few fragmentary critical notes. Though small in bulk it 
is enough to show us a highly artistic and original mind. 

There is a good deal of Baudelaire in Jules Laforgue. 
In one of his critical notes he condemns exaggeration, and 
finds in this the great drawback of Baudelaire's disciples. 
1 Tous ses eleves,' he says, ' ont glisse dans le paroxysme, 
dans Thorrible plat comme des carabins d'estaminets.' 

But for Baudelaire himself he had a sincere admiration. 
He wrote of him : 

' Baudelaire may be a cynic, or mad : he is never gross ; there is 
never a wrong fold in the impressions in which he clothes himself. 
He is always courteous with ugliness. He behaves well. . . . His 
images are an Anglo-American importation applied to the Song of 
Songs. His melancholy the void of the man of letters disgusted 
by his age, and who has been born idle and royal.' 

Which is acute enough. 

Baudelaire's influence appears directly in many places 
in Laforgue's poems. Here is all the Baudelairian sense 
of solitude : 

' Ah ! ces voix dans la nuit chantant Noel ! Noel ! 
M'apportent de la nef qui Ik-bas s'illumine 
Un si tendre, un si doux reproche maternel, 
Que mon cceur trop gonfle* creve dans ma poitrine . . . 
Et j'ecoute longtemps les cloches, dans la nuit . . . 
Je suis le paria de la famille humaine, 
A qui le vent apporte en son sale reduit 
La poignante rumeur d'une fete lointaine.' Noel Sceptique. 

What, too, could be more Baudelairian than the 
Litanies de mon sacre-cceur. 

1 Promethee et Vautour, chatiment et blaspheme, 
Mon cceur, cancer sans cceur, se grignote lui-meme. 


Mon cceur est une urne ou j'ai mis certains defunts, 

Oh ! chut, refrains de leurs berceaux ! et vous parfums . . . 

Mon cceur est un lexique ou cent litteratures 
Se lardent sans repit de divines ratures. 

Mon coeur est un ddsert alte're, bien que soul 
De ce vin revomi, 1'universel degout. 

Mon coeur est un N(ron, enfant gate d'Asie, 
Qui d'empires de reve en vain se rassasie. 

Mon cceur est un noyd vide d'ame et d'essors, 
Qu'etreint la pieuvre Spleen en ses ventouses d'or. . . . 

Mon cceur est une horloge oubliee a demeure, 

Qui, me sachant ddfunt, s'obstine a sonner 1'heure ! . . .' 

And this again : 

' Voici venir le soir, doux au vieillard lubrique. 
Mon chat Miirr accroupi comme un sphinx heraldique 
Contemple, inquiet, de sa prunelle fantastique, 
Marcher a 1'horizon la lune chlorotique. . . . 

Je songe aux enfants qui partout viennent de naitre, 
Je songe a tous les morts enterre's d'aujourd'hui, 
Et je me figure etre au fond du cimetiere 
Et me mets a la place, en entrant dans leur biere, 
De ceux qui vont passer Ik leur premiere nuit.' 

Le Sanglot de la Terre. La premiere Nuit. 

Is this not a complete expression of the Baudelairian 
conflicting temperament? Next he shows us the same 
pessimism, the same delight in indulging in melancholy : 

' L'extase du soleil, peuh ! La Nature, fade 
Usine de seve aux lymphatiques parfums. 
Mais les lacs eperdus des longs couchants defunts 
Dorlotent mon voilier dans leurs plus riches rades 
Comme un ange malade. . . . 
O Notre Dame des Soirs, 
Que je vous aime sans espoir.' 

There is the same restless questioning : 

1 Tout est-il seul ? Ou suis-je ? Ou va ce bloc qui roule 
Et m'emporte ? Et je puis mourir ! mourir ! partir 
Sans rien savoir ! Parlez ! 6 rage ! et le temps coule 
Sans retour 1 Arretez, arrtez ! Et jouir ? 


Car j'ignore tout, moi ! mon heure est la peut-etre ? 

Je ne sais pas ! J'etais de la nuit, puis je nais. 

Pourquoi ! D'ou 1'univers ? Ou va-t-il ? car le pretre 

N'est qu'un homme. On ne salt rien. Montre-toi, parais, 

Dieu, tdmoin eternel ! Parle ! Pourquoi la vie ? 

Tout se tait ! ' Eclair de gouffre. 

Which, though metaphysically interesting, is scarcely 
poetry. A more poetic expression of these ideas occurs 
in the ' Nobles et touchantes Divagations sous la Lune ' : 

' Un chien perdu grelotte en abois a la Lune. . . . 
Oh ! pourquoi ce sanglot quand nul ne Fa battu ? 
Et, nuits ! que partout la meme Ame ! En est-il une 
Qui n'aboie a 1'exil ainsi qu'un chien perdu ? 

Non, non ; pas un caillou qui ne reve un menage, 
Pas un soir qui ne pleure : encore un aujourd'hui ! 
Pas un Moi qui n'ecume aux barreaux de sa cage, 
Et n'epluche ses jours en filaments d'ennui. . . . 

Infini, d'ou sors-tu ? Pourquoi nos sens superbes 
Sont-ils fous d'au dela les claviers octroye's, 
Croient-ils a des miroirs plus heureux que le Verbe 
Et se tuent ? Infini, montre un peu tes papiers. . . . 

Une place plus fraiche a Foreiller des fievres, 

Un mirage inedit au detour du chemin, 

Des rampements plus fous vers le bonheur des levres, 

Et des opiums plus longs a rever. Mais demain ?' 

When an idealist makes too great demands on life, 
especially when an ardent curiosity is one of the motive 
forces of his existence, disillusion is the inevitable con- 
sequence. We have seen it in the other Baudelairians 
we find it again in Laforgue : 

' Alors le grand bouquet tragique de la Vie ! 
Les mornes violets des disillusions, 
Les horizons tout gris de 1'orniere suivie 
Et les tons infernaux de nos corruptions. 3 

Sanglot de la Terre. Rosace en Vitrail. 

And in life he can find only repeating itself the same 
sad story : 

* La faim, 1'amour, 1'espoir ... la maladie, 
Puis la mort, c'est toujours la meme come'die.' 


That the idea of death should preoccupy the mind of 
one fated to meet it so soon is, if heartrending, only 
natural. Knowledge of the circumstances of his life adds 
poignance to these lines : 

* Je n'ai fait que souffrir, pour toute la Nature, 
Pour les etres, le vent, les fleurs, le firmament, 
Souffrir par tous mes nerfs, minutieusement, 
Souffrir de ne pas avoir Tame assez pure. 
J'ai crache sur 1'amour et j'ai tud la chair ! 
Fou d'orgueil, je me suis roidi centre la vie ! 
Et seul, sur cette Terre a 1'Instinct asservie, 
Je defiais PInstinct avec un rire amer.' 

Pour le livre d? amour. 

The last line brings us naturally to another side of 
Laforgue's character. Like Verlaine he came to the con- 
clusion that il ne faut pas etre dupe dans ce farceur de 
monde. Like Villiers de 1'Isle Adam he took refuge in 


' Ah ! tout le long du coeur, 
Un vieil ennui m'efneure. 
M'est avis qu'il est 1'heure 
De renaitre moqueur.' 

Imitation de Notre Dame de la Lune VIII. 

It was in this humour that he turned to write his 
Moralites Legendaires, the prose part of his work. A note 
from his diary gives us an insight into his aim here : 

' Dreams of Writing. To write a prose which shall be very clear, 
very plain, though keeping all its riches, arranged not painfully but 
simply, French such as Christ would have spoken. And add to it 
pictures taken from outside our French repertory, but which remain 
distinctly human. Pictures like those of Gaspard Hauser, who has 
not studied, but who has sounded the depths of death, has made a 
study of natural botany, is familiar with the skies, and stars, and 
animals, and colours, and streets, and all good things such as cakes, 
tobacco, kisses, love.' 

In the Moralites Legendaires with the single exception 
of the < Miracle des Roses ' Laforgue retold in his own 
manner some of the world's great stories, retold them 


with his own modern denouements, with a most enter- 
taining use of anachronism, and throughout with his 
delicate elusive irony, lending modern motives to the 
ancient themes. 

Salome becomes a sort of metaphysician, and having 
achieved her desire flings herself into the sea with the 
head of John the Baptist, who himself is but a socialistic 
disciple of Jean Jacques Rousseau. Elsa is portrayed as 
a rebellious vestal rescued by Lohengrin who is at once 
wearied by her highly pronounced earthliness. Andromeda 
is rescued by a Perseus who seems just like a Beardsley 
drawing : 

' Perseus comes up sitting side-saddle, his feet with their byssus 
sandals coquettishly crossed ; from his saddle-bow hangs a mirror. 
He is inert. His red smiling mouth might be compared to a 
cut pomegranate ; a pink rose in the hollow of his chest looks like 
lacquer ; his arms are tattooed with a heart pierced by an arrow ; a 
lily is painted on the calf of his leg ; he wears an emerald monocle, 
a number of rings and bracelets ; from his golden shield hangs 
a little sword with pearl hilt.' 

And Andromeda is rescued by this Perseus, who kills the 
monster who guarded her, only to discover that it was 
the monster that she loved. 

Hamlet becomes a socialist disciple of Hobbes. Hear 
his reflections as he passes a crowd of the poor young and 
old coming back from their daily sordid tasks : 

' Parbleu ! ' thinks Hamlet, ' I know as well as you, if not better ; 
the existing social order is scandal enough to suffocate Nature. 
Myself, I am nothing but a feudal parasite. Still ! they are born 
in it, that 's an old story, it does not prevent their honeymoons nor 
their fear of death; and everything is good which has no end. 
Well then, yes ! Rise up one day, then let all this be done with ! 
Put all to fire and sword. Crush like fleas of insomnia castes, 
religions, ideas, languages ! Make once more for us a fraternal 
childhood on this Earth our mother, which one shall go to feed 
upon in the warm countries.' 


And what could be more characteristic than the con- 
clusion of these reflections : 

* Dans les Jardins 
De nos instincts 
Aliens cueillir 
De quoi guerir.' 

The soul of Jules Laforgue is a symbol of that longing 
for the unknown which is one of the characteristic features 
of his age. As M. Mauclair says, there was something 
of his beloved Hamlet in him : 

* A world of dreams in conflict with the world of facts. He has 
not to avenge his father, but to free his soul. Ophelia is not mad, 
but woman seems to him inconsistent and too limited in love to 
suit his great pity ; and if he does not kill Polonius, at least he 
recks little, like that other Hamlet, that this person sees the wonders 
he shows him in the clouds.' 




WE have now traced the influence of the Baudelairian 
spirit in France fairly near to the present day, and the 
question arises of where to stop. It seemed to us better 
not to endeavour to make a detailed study of living poets. 

The work of some of the older living poets has already 
its definite features, while that of some of the younger is 
still in course of development, and we can have no certain 
knowledge of its final temper, since * mankind are not 

Certain it is that the influence of Baudelaire is still at 

The early work of Leon Cladel (1835- ) shows it. 

The poems of another Belgian, Emile Verhaeren 
0855- ) are full of Baudelairism. He has the same 
self-conscious deliberate disenchantment, the same highly 
developed sensitiveness to the surrounding universe. 

* Un flambeau qu'on deplace, une etoffe qu'on froisse, 
Un trou qui te regarde, un craquement moqueur, 
Quelqu'un qui passe et qui revient et qui repasse 
Te feront tressaillir de frissons instinctifs ; 
Et tu te vetiras d'une inedite audace ; 
D'autres sens te naitront, subtils et maladifs, 
Us renouvelleront ton etre use de rages. . . .' 

Which is Poesque already, and still more so is this from 
* Les Rideaux,' which also compels comparison with Baude- 
laire's * Chambre Double ' and much of Rodenbach : 


' Je sais de vieux et longs rideaux, 
Avec des fleurs et des oiseaux, 
Avec des fleurs et des jardins 
Et des oiseaux incarnadins ; 
De beaux rideaux si doux de joie, 
Aux mornes fronts profonds 
Qu'on roule en leurs baisers de sole. 

Les miens, ils sont hargneux de leurs chimeres, 
Us sont, mes grands rideaux, couleur de cieux, 

Un firmament silencieux 
De signes fous et de haines ramaires. 

Mon ame est une proie 
Avec du sang et de grands trous 
Pour les betes d'or et de soie, 
Mon ame, elle est beante et pantelante, 
Elle n'est que loques et dechirures 
Ou ces betes, k coupables armures 
D'ailes en flamme et de rostres ouverts, 
Mordent leur faim par au travers. . . .' 

Nor is the macabre humour wanting in Verhaeren. 
Here is a lusty descendant of * The Conqueror Worm' and 
* La Charogne ' : 

' Mes Doigts, touchez mon front et cherchez Ik, 
Les vers qui rongeront, un jour, de leur morsure, 
Mes chairs ; touchez mon front, mes maigres doigts, voilk 
Que mes veines deja, comme une meurtrissure 
Bleuatre, dtrangement, en font le tour, mes las 
Et pauvres doigts et que vos longs ongles malades 
Battent, sinistrement, sur mes tempes, un glas, 
Un pauvre glas, mes lents et mornes doigts ! ' 

Mes Doigts. 

He has the same ideal of aloofness, like a monk alone 
with his contemplation, and the other great refuge from 
prosaic reality his art. 

The work of Maeterlinck and his school which to study 
would lead us too far into the consideration of modern 
mysticism is an outcome of the Baudelairian search after 
the discovery of 'Correspondance,' and did not Maeter- 
linck himself say, * Tout ce que j'ai, je le dois a Villiers ' ? 


Before leaving Belgium we will mention a curious 
Baudelairian study by Edmond Picard (1836- ) which 
appeared in 1893, entitled Le Jure. The interesting part 
of this ' scene from judicial life' is the preface in the 
form of a note on what Picard calls the Fantastique Reel 
the fantastic being le bizarre dans Veffrayant^ which can 
exist in imagination (Imaginative Fantastique) , or in reality 
(Fantastique Reel). 

Since Baudelaire no stronger plea has been made for 
mystery : 

'A mystery is the most profound thing for exciting human 
emotion. If you wish to be interesting always, never let yourself be 
thoroughly known. Nature herself has this skill in her works. . . . 
Let there remain enigma, undecipherable in some aspect and 
tormenting tormenting tormenting. . . . There is a sigh in the 
passage . . . the wind. There is a creaking in the woodwork. ... I 
am moved. A string of the piano breaks, and vibrates in its closed 
case. One by one the petals fall from a rose sleeping in a vase. 
All this is strange. . . .' 

Finally, the early work of Stuart Merrill sounds from 
time to time the Baudelairian note. In his piece ' Oubli ' 
it is strong : 



' Mon cceur, 6 ma Chimere, est une cathedrale 
Ou mes chastes pensers, idolatres du Beau, 
S'en viennent, a minuit, sous la flamme lustrale, 
Raler leur requiem au pied de ton tombeau. 

J'ai dressd, sous le ciel du dome un sarcophage, 
Dont la grave e'pitaphe, en strophes de granit, 
Proclamera de Paube k 1'ombre, d'age en age, 
L'amen et 1'hosanna de notre amour bdnit. 


Mon coeur est une crypte ou, parmi les pilastres, 
S'enroulent les remous de 1'encens des oublis, 
Et vers 1'heure qui luit de la lueur des astres 
La paix des nuits se mire en les paves polis. 


Sur le carrare froid des marches sepulcrales, 
Dejk mes vieux pensers sont panic's de sommeil ; 
Les lampadaires d'or s'endorment en spirales, 
Et, 6 la glauque aurore en le vitrail vermeil ! ' 

He, too, fell under the spell of la meille volupte de rever 
a la mort, and of seeking a lurking sadness in nature. 

* Sous le souffle etouffe des vents ensorceleurs 
J'entends sourdre sous bois les sanglots et les reves. . . .' 

And in his Refrains melancoliques, where his theme is 
V ineffable horreur des etes somnolents and Vindicible effroi 
des somnolents hivers, the Baudelairian ennui once more 
finds expression : 

* J'ai demand^ la mort aux etes somnolents, 
Ou les lilas au long des jardins s'alanguissent, 
Et les zephyrs, soupirs de dormeurs indolents, 
Sur les fleurs de rubis et d'emeraude glissent. 

Mais oh ! les revoici, les memes avenirs ! 

Les etes ont relui sur la terre ravie, 

Et les vieilles amours et les vieux souvenirs 

De nouveau pleins d'horreur sont venus k la vie.' 

In the concluding stanzas the note is even stronger : 

' J'ai demande la vie aux somnolents hivers, 
Ou les neiges aux cieux s'en vont comme des reves. . . . 

Mais j'ai vu revenir les memes avenirs : 

Les hivers ont neige" sur le sein de la terre, 

Et les vieilles amours et les vieux souvenirs, 

De nouveau, fous d'effroi, sont morts dans le mystere. 

Toujours vivre et mourir, revivre et remourir 1 
N'est-il pas de N^ant final qui nous d&ivre ? 
Mourir et vivre, 6 Temps, remourir et revivre ! 
Jusqu'aux soleils eteints nous faudra-t-il souffrir ? ' 

But the temper of his poetry has changed since then. 
Stuart Merrill is, indeed, an example in favour of not 
including living poets in this study. 




WHEN we come to study Baudelairism in England, we 
would call to mind that saying of Stendhal : ' Just as the 
sun is warmer and prudery weaker in Milan than in 
London, there is more passion and more gaiety in the 
Cafe 1 than in the Spectator \ ' 

In the same way Baudelairism in England cannot be 
the same thing as in France ; it meets with a different 
national temper, a different demand is made on art. As 
Mr. Arthur Machen has well put it : 

' In Paris it is agreed that imagination and fantasy are to work as 
they will and as they can, and are to be judged by their own laws. 
He who carves gargoyles admirably is praised for his curious excel- 
lence in the invention and execution of these grinning monsters ; 
and if he is blamed it is for bad carving, and not because he failed 
to produce pet lambs ; we lay stress on usefulness and serious aims, 
and Imagination itself is expected to improve the occasion, to 
reform while it entertains, and to instruct under the guise of 

The * heresy of the didactic ' has enjoyed a longer life 
in England than in any other country, and even now 
shows no great signs of failing strength. 

The modern movement whose aim is to see the world 

1 The Cafty newspaper published by Verri in Milan. 



in beauty begins in England with Shelley, and when the 
Baudelairian influence, or the Symbolist influence, enters 
into English literature it is through the influence of 
Shelley, hand in hand with the influence of Shelley that 
it works. Baudelaire himself admired Shelley ; Mallarme 
was professor of English. 

The poetry of Shelley comes as a reaction against 
the introduction of the commonplace as effected by 
Wordsworth, though it by no means destroyed that 
influence, which breathes to-day in Mr. Arthur Symons' 


' Farmyards a fluster with pigs ' 

just as in that line of Arthur Hugh Clough which Richard 
Hutton quoted with such enthusiastic admiration in the 
Spectator, describing the dairymaid : 

* Stately with well poised pail moving on to the pump or the farmyard.' 

Now, Shelley on his philosophic side reacts against this 
spirit as a Baudelairian avant la lettre. 

He has the same interest in the ideal world. In him 
we find those ideas which recur at their highest expres- 
sion in Villiers de 1'Isle Adam : ' the universe is the 
creation of the mind/ 'All things exist as they are per- 
ceived, 'and poetry is * the creation of actions according to 
the unchangeable process of human nature as existing in 
the mind of the Creator, which is itself the image of all 
other minds.' 

' All that we see or seem 
Is but a dream within a dream,' 

wrote Edgar Poe, and thus Shelley : 

1 In this life 

Of terror, ignorance and strife, 
Where nothing is, but all things seem, 
And we the shadow of the dream.' 

The idea is very old : ovaa? ovap avOpcoTroi, said Pindar, 


but none the less sincerely does Mallarme declare that we 
are ' La triste opacite de nos spectres futurs.' 

Shelley has, too, a Baudelairian keen perception of the 
limits of utility : 

' Whilst the mechanist abridges and the political economist com- 
bines labour, let them beware that their speculation for want of 
correspondence with those first principles which belong to the 
imagination, do not tend as they have in modern England to 
exasperate at once the extremes of luxury and of want. . . . The 
rich have become richer, and the poor fyave become poorer, and 
the vessel of the state is driven between the Scylla and Charybdis 
of anarchy and despotism. Such are the effects which must ever 
flow from an unmitigated exercise of the calculating faculty.' 

This is an argument against practical utility against 
the utilitarian aim of literature ; the whole of his justifica- 
tion of poetry as the creator of beauty is an argument. 

There is another, and less known Baudelairian side of 
Shelley the side that found pleasure in cultivating weird 
fancies, when he and his sister-in-law in their nocturnal 
experiments in Italy screwed up their nerves to such a 
tension that they were unable to leave the room they were 
in, through sheer physical fear of what they might see 
the other side of the door. 

There is something of Shelley in Poe, not only from 
the musical point of view. 

But Shelley apart, we are able to trace in England a 
direct influence of Baudelaire. It is distinct in Swin- 
burne, in Arthur O'Shaughnessy, in Oscar Wilde, in 
that curious figure Aubrey Beardsley, of whom we will 
speak when we come to consider Baudelairism in paint- 
ing, and is still continuing to make itself felt in contem- 
porary writers. 



IT is a mere commonplace to remark that Swinburne's 
early poetry at the time it appeared was something 
entirely new in English poetry. 

The new feature was the carrying into perfect practice of 
the art-for-art theory, the preoccupation of pure sensuous 
beauty ; and this aim, so different from that of Swin- 
burne's immediate predecessors, can, I think, only be 
accounted for by the fact that Swinburne was greatly 
influenced by the French poets. 1 Hugo, Gautier, Baude- 
laire inspired him with a great and lasting enthusiasm. 
The brilliant oratory of Hugo, the exquisite craftsmanship 
of Gautier, the strange unreal atmosphere, the * new sins ' 
of Baudelaire, all these left their stamp on the early genius 
of Swinburne. We have only to deal with his relation to 
the last named of these French poets. 

Of his admiration for Baudelaire Swinburne left us 
definite and explicit proof in the ' Ave atque Vale,' written 
in memory of Baudelaire. It is one of the most beautiful 
of Swinburne's achievements, worthy to be ranked with 
the great elegies of our language with Lycidas, with 
Adonais, with Thyrsis. We quote a stanza or two : 

* Thou sawest, in thine old singing season, brother, 
Secrets and sorrows unbeheld of us : 

1 It is interesting to remember that Swinburne was of French descent. In a 
letter to Mr. E. C. Stedman, Feb. 2O, 1875, he writes : ' My father, Admiral 
Swinburne, is the second son of Sir John Swinburne, a person whose life would 
be better worth writing than mine. Born and brought up in France, his father 
(I believe) a naturalised Frenchman (we were all Catholic and Jacobite rebels 
and exiles), and his mother a lady of the house of Polignac (a quaint political 
relationship for me, as you will admit), my grandfather never left France till 
25 . . . ' etc. 


Fierce loves, and lovely leaf-buds poisonous, 
Bare to thy subtler eye, but for none other 
Blowing by night in some unbreathed-in clime ; 
The hidden harvest of luxurious time, 
Sin without shape, and pleasure without speech ; 
And where strange dreams in a tumultuous sleep 
Make the shut eyes of stricken spirits weep ; 
And with each face thou sawest the shadow on each, 
Seeing as men sow men reap. . . . 

Alas, but though my flying song flies after, 

O sweet strange elder singer, thy more fleet 

Singing, and footprints of thy fleeter feet, 

Some dim derision of mysterious laughter 

From the blind tongueless warders of the dead, 

Some gainless glimpse of Proserpine's veiled head, 

Some little sound of unregarded tears 

Wept by effaced unprofitable eyes, 

And from pale mouths some cadence of dead sighs 

These only, these the hearkening spirit hears, 

Sees only such things rise. . . . 

And now no sacred staff shall break in blossom, 

No choral salutation lure to light 

A spirit sick with perfume and sweet night 

And love's tired eyes and hands and barren bosom. 

There is no help for these things ; none to mend 

And none to mar ; not all our songs, O friend, 

Will make death clear or make life durable. 

Howbeit with rose and ivy and wild vine, 

And with wild notes about this dust of thine, 

At least I fill the place where white dreams dwell, 

And wreathe an unseen shrine. 

Sleep ; and if life was bitter to thee, pardon, 

If sweet, give thanks ; thou hast no more to live ; 

And to give thanks is good, and to forgive. 

Out of the mystic and the mournful garden 

Where all day through thine hands in barren braid 

Wove the sick flowers of secrecy and shade, 

Green buds of sorrow and sin, and remnants grey, 

Sweet-smelling, pale with poison, sanguine-hearted, 

Passions that sprang from sleep and thoughts that started, 

Shall death not bring us all as thee one day 

Among the days departed ? ' 


These verses alone would prove Swinburne a Baude- 
lairian. But let us push comparison further. In the 
first place, Swinburne's early poetry is Baudelairian in 
its ' aristocracy ' ; like Baudelaire, Swinburne found no 
beauty in the commonplace, but only in the exceptional 
in the unreal even. It is of course obvious that the later 
work (and some of that only a very little later with its 
socialistic preoccupation a flagrant contradiction to the 
art-for-art theory) is in this totally un-Baudelairian. And 
the same must be said of the love poems, though it should be 
remarked that the fact that Swinburne is the one modern 
English poet who has artistically celebrated the more terres- 
trial aspect of love is probably due to French influence. 

Un-Baudelairian again is his physical delight in Nature. 
No one has sung more finely the joy of contact with the 
sea. 1 Swinburne is like the Greeks in this who 'knew 
that the sea was for the swimmer and the sand for the feet 
of the runner.' Baudelaire, on the contrary, has all the 
Roman mistrust of the sea. Hear him : 

* Homme libre, toujours tu cheriras la mer. 

La mer est ton miroir ; tu contemples ton ame 

Dans le deroulement infini de sa lame, 

Et ton esprit n'est pas un gouffre moins amer. 

Vous etes tous les deux tenet>reux et discrets : 
Homme, nul n'a sonde le fond de tes abimes, 
O mer, nul ne connait tes richesses intimes, 
Tant vous etes jaloux de garder vos secrets ! 

Et cependant voila des siecles innombrables 
Que vous vous combattez sans pitie' ni remord, 
Tellement vous aimez le carnage et la mort, 
O lutteurs eternels, 6 freres implacables ! ' 

In one passage Baudelaire does touch on another 

aspect : 

* La mer, la vaste mer, console nos labeurs ! 
Quel demon a dote la mer rauque chanteuse 

1 As James Douglas says : ' No other poet has sung it so sincerely and so 
spontaneously. . . . Even Byron addresses the ocean as if it were a public 


Qu'accompagne 1'immense orgue des vents grondeurs, 
De cette fonction sublime de berceuse ? 
La mer, la vaste mer, console nos labeurs ! ' 

But Swinburne's physical enjoyment is entirely lacking. 

Yet Baudelaire was, with Swinburne, Greek, in that 

he, too, delighted in the contemplation of that beauty 

which is l noble and nude and antique/ Here are his 

words : 

' J'aime le souvenir de ces epoques nues, 
Dont Phoebus se plaisait a dorer les statues. 

Nous avons, il est vrai, nations corrompues, 
Aux peuples anciens des beautes inconnues : 
Des visages ronges par les chancres du coeur, 
Et comme qui dirait des beautes de langueur ; 
Mais ces inventions de nos muses tardives 
N'empecheront jamais les races maladives 
De rendre a la jeunesse un hommage profond, 
A la sainte jeunesse, a 1'air simple, au doux front, 
A 1'ceil limpide et clair ainsi qu'une eau courante, 
Et qui va repandant sur tout, insouciante, 
Comme 1'azur du ciel, les oiseaux et les fleurs, 
Ses parfums, ses chansons, et ses douces chaleurs ! ' 

Swinburne's idea of extracting ' exceeding pleasure out 
of extreme pain ' (Laus Veneris) is a Baudelairian one, 
and so is the vaunted discovery of a new sin, from the 
same poem : 

1 Yea, with red sins the faces of them shine ; 
But in all these there was no sin like mine ; 
No, not in all the strange great sins of them 
That made the wine-press froth and foam with wine.' 

If it be urged, on the one hand, that no English poet 
painted in more glowing colours the attractions of vice, 
it should also be remembered that no poet presented 
with more power its consequences (which is also what 
Baudelaire did) : 

* Death laughs, breathing close and relentless 
In the nostrils and eyelids of lust, 
With a pinch in his fingers of scentless 
And delicate dust. 5 


Indeed, the whole of ' Dolores,' as Mr. James Douglas 
well puts it, is a ' passionate revelation of the pain of 
pleasure, the ennui of evil and the satiety of sin.' 

He shared with Baudelaire again that conception 
common to all the nineteenth-century thinkers of a 
universe hostile to man : 

' Men are the heart-beats of man, the plumes that feather his wings, 
Storm-worn since being began with the wind and thunder of things, 
Things are cruel and blind ; their strength detains and deforms : 
And the wearying wings of the mind still beat up the stream of their 


Still, as one swimming up stream, they strike out blind in the blast 
In thunders of vision and dream, and light wings of future and past.' 

This is an oft-recurring note in Swinburne ; it is in the 
pessimism of the * Ballad of Burdens,' it is in the famous 
* Atalanta ' chorus : 

4 Before the beginning of years 

There came to the making of man 
Time, with a gift of tears ; 

Grief, with a glass that ran ; 
Pleasure, with pain for leaven ; 

Summer, with flowers that fell ; 

Remembrance fallen from heaven, 

And madness risen from hell.' 

And its closing epitome of the destiny of man : 
' In his heart is a blind desire, 
In his eyes foreknowledge of death ; 
He weaves and is clothed with derision, 
Sows, and he shall not reap ; 
His life is a watch or a vision 
Between a sleep and a sleep.' 

Or again, in * Lamentation,' 

* Nor less of grief than ours 
The gods wrought long ago 
To bruise men one by one ; 
But with the incessant hours 
Fresh grief and greener woe 
Spring as the sudden sun 
Year after year makes flowers ; 
And these die down and grow, 
And the next year lacks none,' 


which has a Baudelairian ring, and in it a reminiscence of 
Shelley :- 

* As long as skies are blue and fields are green 
Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow, 
Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.' 

Above all, the humour of Baudelaire's Revolte is to be 
found very strong in Swinburne. Examples abound. 
Take first this from the 'Hymn of Man ' : - 

' Thou madest man in the garden ; thou temptest man, and he fell ; 
Thou gavest him poison for pardon for blood and burnt-offering to sell. 
Thou hast sealed thine elect to salvation, fast locked with faith for the 


Make now for thyself expiation, and be thine atonement for thee. 
Ah, thou that darkenest heaven ah, thou that bringest a sword, 
By the crimes of thine hands unforgiven they beseech thee to hear them, 

O Lord. . . . 

O thou hast built thee a shrine of the madness of man and his shame, 
And hast hung in the midst for a sign of his worship the lamp of thy 

Thou hast shown him for heaven in a vision a void world's shadow and 

And hast fed thy delight and derision with fire of belief as of hell,' etc. 

Or again, in the ' Marching Song' : 

4 Earth gives us thorns to tread, 

And all her thorns are trod ; 
Through lands burnt black and red 

We pass with feet unshod, 
Whence we would be man shall not keep us nor man's God.' 

And again in ' Atalanta,' where Atalanta says of the 

gods : 

' Lo, where they heal, they help not ; thus they do, 
They mock us with a little piteousness, 
And we say prayers, and weep ; but at the last, 
Sparing awhile they smite and spare no whit.' 

And in the still more famous passage on ' The supreme 
evil, God ' : 

* Yea with thine hate, O God, thou hast covered us, 
One saith, and hidden our eyes away from sight, 
And made us transitory and hazardous, 

Light things and slight ; 
Yet have men praised thee, saying, " He hath made men thus," 


And he doeth right. 

Thou hast kissed us, and hast smitten ; thou hast laid 
Upon us with thy left hand life, and said, 
Live : and again thou hast said, Yield up your breath, 
And with thy right hand laid upon us death. 
Thou hast sent us sleep, and stricken sleep with dreams, 
Saying, Joy is not, but love of joy shall be ; 
Thou hast made them bitter with the sea. 
Thou hast fed one rose with the dust of many men ; 
Thou hast marred one face with fire of many tears ; 
Thou hast taken love, and given us sorrow again ; 
With pain thou hast filled us full to the eyes and ears. 
Therefore because thou art strong, our Father, and we 
Feeble ; and thou art against us, and thine hand 
Constrains us in the shallows of the sea, 
And breaks us at the limits of the land. s . . 

Because thou art over all who are over us ; 
Because thy name is life, and our name death ; 
Because thou art cruel, and men are piteous ; 
And our hands labour, and thine hand scattereth ; 
Lo, with hearts rent and knees made tremulous, 
Lo, with ephemeral lips and casual breath, 

At least we witness of thee ere we die 
That these things are not otherwise, but thus ; 
That each man in his heart sigheth and saith, 

That all men even as I, 
All we are against thee, against thee, O God most high. 

But ye, keep ye on earth 
Your lips from over speech, 
Loud words and longings are so little worth ; 
And the end is hard to reach. . . .' 

Examples could be multiplied ; we will only quote from 
* Anactoria ' : 

' For who shall change with prayers or thanksgivings 
The mystery of the cruelty of things ? . . . 
Hath he not sent us hunger? who hath cursed 
Spirit and flesh with longing ? filled with thirst 
Their lips who cried unto him ? who bade exceed 
The fervid will, fall short the feeble deed, 
Bade sink the spirit and the flesh aspire, 
Pain animate the dust of dead desire, 


And life yield up her flower to violent fate ? 
Him would I reach, him smite, him desecrate, 
Pierce the cold lips of God with human breath, 
And mix his immortality with death. . . .' etc. 

And in ' A Reminiscence ' sounds the more con- 
templative note of Baudelairian doubt : 

* Day to night 

Calls wailing, and life to death, and depth to height, 
And soul upon soul of man that hears and grieves. 

Who knows, though he sees the snow-cold blossom shed, 

If haply the heart that burned within the rose, 

The spirit in sense, the life of life be dead ? 

If haply the wind that slays the storming snows 

Be one with the wind that quickens ? Bow thine head, 

O Sorrow, and commune with thine heart who knows ? ' 

Relief from this restlessness could be found as Baude- 
laire knew by losing oneself in dreams, or in art, but 
above all the great calmer is Death : 

' O Mort, vieux capitaine, il est temps ! levons 1'ancre ! 
Ce pays nous ennuie, O Mort ! appareillons ! ' 

And so Swinburne : 

' Good day, good night and good morrow, 
Men living and mourning say, 
For thee we could only pray 
That night of the day might borrow 
Such comfort as dreams lend sorrow, 
Death gives thee at last good day.' 

And in closing we will only quote those most perfect 
lines of all Swinburne's poetic output : 

* From too much love of living, 
From hope and fear set free, 
We thank with brief thanksgiving 
Whatever Gods there be 
That no life lives for ever, 
That dead men rise up never, 
That even the weariest river 
Winds somewhere safe to sea.' 



ARTHUR O'SHAUGHNESSY, as his name implies, was of 
Irish descent, though born in London in 1844. His life was 
very short, for he died at the age of thirty-six. In 1861 he 
entered the British Museum Library, and two years later 
was transferred to the Natural History department, where 
fishes and reptiles became his speciality. In his leisure 
hours he found time to write some very beautiful poems, 
though the fact that his work is unequal is little more than 
what we expect with a man carried off in the height of his 
promise, robbed of the opportunity of winnowing his 
work in his mature judgment. 

There are four small volumes of O'Shaughnessy's 
poems The Epic of Women (1870), Lays of France (1872), 
Music and Moonlight (1874), and the posthumous Song of a 
Worker (iSSi). 

From the beginning these poems showed strong signs 
of French influence traces of Gautier, and, above all, a 
debt to Baudelaire. 

Swinburne of course played his part, but the point is 
that he played through his Baudelairian side. 

The Epic of Women shows a Baudelairian influence 
in its choice of theme. Here are all the heroines of his- 
tory who were great to men's cost : 

' From Eve whom God made 
And left her as He made her without soul. 


And lo ! when He had held her for a season 
In His own pleasure palaces above, 
He gave her unto men ; this is the reason 
She is so fair to see, so false to love ' 

the wife of Hephaestus, Cleopatra, Salome, Helen. 

When O'Shaughnessy wrote his * To a Young 
Murderess' he must have had in mind those lines of 
Baudelaire : 

* Tu marches sur des morts, Beaute, dont tu te moques. 
De ces bijoux 1'Horreur n'est pas le moins charmant, 
Et le Meurtre parmi tes plus chores breloques 
Sur ton ventre orgueilleux danse amoureusement.' 

Here is the English poem : 

' Fair yellow murderess, whose gilded head 
Gleaming with deaths ; whose deadly body white 
Writ o'er with secret records of the dead ; 
Whose tranquil eyes, that hide the dead from sight 
Down in their tenderest depth and bluest bloom ; 
Whose strange unnatural grace, whose prolonged youth 
Are for my death now and the shameful doom 
Of all the man I might have been in truth. 

Your fell smile sweetened still lest I might show 
Its lingering murder with a kiss for lure 
Is like the fascinating steel that one 
Most vengeful in his last revenge, and sure 
The victim lies beneath him, passes slow 
Again and oft again before his eyes, 
And over all his frame that he may know 
And suffer the whole death before he dies. 

Will you not slay me ? Stab me, yea somehow 
Deep in the heart : say some foul word at last 
And let me hate you as I love you now. 
Oh, would I might but see you turn and cast 
That false fair beauty that you e'en shall lose, 
And fall down there and writhe about my feet, 
The crooked loathly viper I shall bruise 
Through all eternity ? 

Nay, kiss me, Sweet ! ' 

Here too we find a strong note of exotism. Take, for 
instance, ' Palm-Flowers.' 


' In a land of the sun's blessing 
Where the passion flower grows, 
My heart keeps all worth possessing, 
And the way there no man knows. 

All the perfumes and perfections 
Of that clime have met with grace 
In her body, and complexions 
Of its flowers are on her face.' 

And the same note recurs in the ' Song of Betrothal ' 
in Music and Moonlight : 

' I think I see you under 

Strange palms with leaves of gold, 
Your foreign dress, and in your hand 
The quaint bright fan you hold. 

I sit sometimes and wonder, 

O sister mine and lover, 
What ship shall bring you from your land 

To me here in the cold.' 

And again in the ' Song of the Palm ' : 

1 Mighty luminous and calm 
Is the country of the palm, 
Crowned with sunset and sunrise 
Under the unbroken skies, 
Waving from green zone to zone 
Over wonders of its own, 
Trackless, untraversed, unknown, 
Changeless through the centuries. 

Who shall tell enchanted stories 
Of the forests that are dead ? 
Lo ! the soul shall grow immense 
Looking on strange hues intense, 
Gazing at the flaunted glories 
Of the hundred-coloured lories.' 

There is the same effort to ascribe a reasoning to 
natural happenings, as in this passage from the * Fountain 
of Tears ' (Epic of Women) : 

1 You may feel when a falling leaf brushes 
Your face, as though some one had kissed you, 
Or think at least some one who missed you 
Hath sent you a thought if that cheers. 


Or a bird's little song, faint and broken, 
May pass for a tender word spoken ; 
Enough while around you there rushes 
The life drowning torrent of tears.' 1 

And in this from Music and Moonlight : 

*. . . the antique Past 
A minuet was dancing with the last 
Still faintly blushing spectre of that eve, 
Whose perfumed rose lay dying on the floor, 
Some shadows seem to laugh and some to grieve 
As the blue moonlight fell on them from door 
And distant window.' 

And here again is the Rodenbach-Baudelairian 
temper : 

* The houses were together quite ; 
The roofs and all the window-places 
Drew nigh with yearning to unite, 
They were most like two lovers' faces, 
Leaving just space enough for sighs 
And fair love looks, and soft replies. . . . 

There the dim time was very sweet, 

And hours between the noon and night 

Were slow to pass with lagging feet, 

And wings full loaded ; tarried late, 

Till long fair fingers from the deep 

Dark wood came forth to separate 

Leaves lights from shades and love from sleep. 

And the moon like a dreamed-of face 

Seen gradually in the dark 
Grew up and filled the silent place 
Between those houses wan and stark.' 

Lays of France : 'The Lay of the Nightingale. 

1 Cp. Moreas, Stance vii. : 

' Par ce soir pluvieux, es-tu quelque presage, 

Un secret avertissement, 
O feuille, qui me viens effleurer le visage 

Avec ce doux fre'missement ? 
L'automne t'a fle'trie et voici que tu tombes, 
Trop lourde d'une goutte d'eau ; 

Tu tombes sur mon front que courbent vers les tombes 
Les jours amasses en fardeau.' 


1 The Disease of the Soul ' is a long poem full of the 
Baudelairian disenchantment the record of the disillusions 
resulting from the ceaseless questioning of an anxious 

soul : 

* There are infinite sources of tears 
Down there in my infinite heart, 
Where the record of time appears 
As the record of time's deceiving, 
Farewells and words that part 
Are ever ready to start 
To my lips turned white with the fears 
Of my heart turned sick of believing. 

I have dreamed in the red sun-setting 
Among rocks where the sea comes and goes 
Vast dreams of the soul's begetting 
Vague oceans that break on no shore, 
I have felt the eternal woes 
Of the soul that aspires and knows ; 
Henceforth there can be no forgetting 
Or closing the eyes any more/ 

And the woe that he feels he traces through the sadness 
of all nature : 

' I have felt the unearthly swoon 
Of the sadness of the moon. . . . 
I have had of the whole creation 
The secret that makes it groan. 

I have put my ear to the earth, 
And heard in a little space 
The lonely travail of birth 
And the lonely prayer of the dying ; 
I have looked all heaven in the face 
And sought for a holier place, 
And a love of my own love's worth, 
And the Soul is the only replying. 

I have dwelt in the tomb's drear hollow, 
I have plundered and wearied death, 
Till no poison is left me to swallow, 
No dull sweet Lethe to have ; 
I have learned all things that he saith, 
I have mingled my breath with his breath, 
And the phantom of life that I follow 
Is weary with seeking a grave. . . .' 


Pessimism of a profound nature was already present in 
the Epic of Women. Take this fragment : 

* Man shall not die. The darkness in his brain, 
The canker at his heart, the ill of ages 
Shall pass and leave him as a worn out pain ; 
Life from her books shall tear a thousand pages, 
And like an unread record shall remain 
The history of his madness when he fled 
Beauty the soul's bride, set before his gaze 
And followed necromantic ties to wed 
Death, with a lingering spousal all his days, 
Gnawed on by worms as though already dead.' 

O'Shaughnessy's was an intensely sensitive nature, and 
the sorrows of his life have left their stamp strong upon 
his work. He married in 1873, but the six years of his 
married life were full of troubles the loss of the two 
children that were born to him, his continual financial 
difficulties, and finally, in 1879, the death of his wife ; all 
this accounts for the personal note of his complainings, 
which is far enough removed from the stoic attitude of 
the Baudelairian ideal. There is Baudelairian thought, 
however, in the following lines: 

' My life of the infinite aching, 
My thought of the passionate theme, 
My heart that is secretly breaking, 
Far more than each lover can guess ; 
With all these I but suffer or seem, 
But I live in the life that I dream, 
And a lover I do not possess.' 

And he turns again to his exotic dreams : 

' The nostalgies of dim pasts seize me ; 
There are days when the thought of some Pharaoh 
Like the phantom pursues me or flees me, 
Through dim lapses of life I forget 
When the love of some fabulous hero, 
Or the passion of purple Nero, 
Is the one human love that could please me ; 
The thing I dream or regret. 3 


This temper finally leads him to the question, 

' Have I bartered my perfect gladness 
For an unknown immortal sadness ? 
Have I counted my pleasure a crime 
And wept all my beauty away ? ' 

To which the answer is an inevitable affirmative. 

With Swinburne, O'Shaughnessy too has his humour 

of revolt : 

* Full of care we cry 

Who is this God and those He giveth birth, 
Having enkindled them with some new spark 
Out of unmoulded essences, that be 
In soft cores and recesses of the earth, 
Or rot in realms of the limitless dark 
Unwarmed and unawakened ? Yea, what worth 
Of love is here that we should barter sleep ? 
To lack love waking, and live doubtful years, 
Knowing not whether most to laugh or weep, 
Feeding ourselves on hoping, and our ears 
Too fain with any music that deceives 
With moaning voice of winds or ocean sigh, 
Or sufficient lisping of the leaves ? 
To feel some little light and hear a cry, 
And live and see no miracle and die ? ' 

O'Shaughnessy is little known, and less read in these 
days. True he is not in the front rank of poets, but then 
his talent had no time to mature. It must be remembered 
that his period of literary production extended only over 
four years. We have had to consider his. work from one 
point of view, and have thus been led to neglect the 
haunting charm of some of his lyrics. 

* Then fall on us, dead leaves of our dear roses, 

And ruins of Summer fall on us e'er long, 
And hide us away where our dead year reposes, 
Let all that we leave in the world be a song.' 

And one or two of his songs ' Has summer come with- 
out the rose?' or * Once in a hundred years,' are worthy 
to be classed among some of the most beautiful in our 



OSCAR WILDE, 1856-1900 

AFTER renewed reading of Oscar Wilde's poems we feel 
that his poetry is composed of elements which are dis- 
cordant with each other. At one moment the writer is 
inspired by a voluptuous paganism ; at another a fer- 
vent spiritualism, and even a vague (oh ! very vague) 
Catholicism, breathes in the verses. This brings us at 
once to study this curious parallel, his faculty of feeling 
catholic mysticism and of finding enjoyment in pleasures, 
and very soon we see that this artistic sensitiveness is the 
man himself, that he felt far more intensely than most 
men, and was in this way led necessarily, as it were, to a 
desperate pursuit of the pleasure of existence. 

And so for the non-moral critic who has not to trouble 
himself with questions of Oscar Wilde's conduct, this 
writer's work appears brimming over with life : on the 
one hand, pagan antiquity with its now ingenuous, now 
conscious sensuality delighting the man enamoured of 
nature ; on the other, Christianity with its eternally deep 

And having said this of Oscar Wilde, have we not 
already suggested that he bears striking resemblances to 
Baudelaire and Verlaine? Like them, is he not a modern 
' representative ' man for whom Art is life itself "? 

Among Oscar Wilde's aphorisms we find this saying 
which is so true of himself : * If a man treats life artisti- 
cally his brain is his heart.' 


And from that we are naturally led to study the 
influence that like minds before him necessarily had 
upon him. 

It was in Keats that Oscar Wilde saw the beginning of 
the artistic renaissance in England. ' It is in Keats that 
the artistic spirit of the century first found its absolute 

His first published poem, the * Ravenna,' with which 
he won the Newdigate prize in 1875, is full of the in- 
fluence of Keats and Shelley, and the volume of poems 
which followed in 1878 shows the same influences. There 
are of course others. He had a great admiration for 
Rossetti, who loves beauty 

' so well, that all the World for him 

A gorgeous-coloured vestiture must wear, 

And Sorrow take a purple diadem, 

Or else be no more Sorrow, and Despair 

Gild its own thorns, and Pain, like Adon, be 
Even in anguish beautiful ; such is the empery 

Which Painters hold, and such the heritage 

This gentle solemn Spirit doth possess, 

Being a better mirror of his age 

In all his pity, love, and weariness, 

Than those who can but copy common things, 
And leave the Soul unpainted with its mighty questionings. 3 

Garden of Eros. 

Swinburne too played his part. The Swinburnian 
note is heard from the first sonnets, with their discontent 
of present things, their admiration of Cromwell and 
Cromwell's England. 

* This mighty empire hath but feet of clay, 
Of all its ancient chivalry and might 
Our little island is forsaken quite : 
Some enemy hath stolen its crown of bay, 
And from its hills that voice hath passed away 
Which spake of Freedom : O come out of it, 
Come out of it, my Soul, thou art not fit 
For this vile traffic house, where day by day 


Wisdom and reverence are sold at mart, 
And the rude people rage with ignorant cries 
Against an heritage of centuries. 
It mars my calm : wherefore in dreams of Art 
And loftiest culture I would stand apart 
Neither for God, nor for his enemies.' 

He directly celebrated Swinburne in the Garden of Eros, 
as the one poet worthy to carry on the tradition of Keats 
with whose advent 

4 Venus laughs to know one knee will bow before her still. 

And he hath kissed the lips of Proserpine, 
And sung the Galilasan's requiem, 
That wounded forehead dashed with blood and wine 
He hath discrowned, the Ancient Gods in him 
Have found their last, most ardent worshipper, 
And the new Sign grows grey and dim before its conqueror.' 

Wilde's admiration for Morris sometimes held dangers 
the Rossetti-Morris refrain habit needs very cautious 
handling, else it trips over the boundary of burlesque, 
and irresistibly recalls Calverley. Here is a highly 
Morrisonian f Chanson ' : 

' A ring of gold and a milk-white dove 

Are goodly gifts for thee, 
And a hempen rope for your own love 
To hang upon a tree. 

For you a House of Ivory 

(Roses are white in the rose bower !) 
A narrow bed for me to lie 

(White, O white is the hemlock flower !) 

Myrtle and jessamine for you 

(O the red rose is fair to see !) 
For me the cypress and the rue 

(Finest of all is rosemary !) 

For you three lovers of your hand 

(Green grass where a man lies dead !) 
For me three paces on the sand 

(Plant lilies at my head !)' 

Such then are the influences at once discernible in 
Wilde's earliest work. Swinburne was already a Baude- 


lairian influence. When we look further we find the 
same Baudelairian distrust of the idea of progress ; it is 
present in his discontent with his age, of which we have 
already spoken, and it recurs in his revolt against the 
reigning ' critical ' unromantic prevailing spirit. 

1 Already the still lark is out of sight, 

Flooding with waves of song this silent dell 
Ah ! there is something more in that bird's flight 
Than could be tested in a crucible.' 

He had also all the Baudelairian hatred of democracy, 
the exasperation against those demagogues who con- 
found the arrival of democracy with the arrival of the 
Golden Age, against the so-called children of liberty 

'. . . . whose dull eyes 
See nothing save their own unlovely woe.' 

As he says of himself: 

* Albeit nurtured in democracy 

And liking best that state republican 
Where every man is Kinglike, and no man 

Is crowned above his fellows, yet I see, 

Spite of this modern fret for Liberty, 
Better the rule of One, whom all obey 
Than to let clamorous demagogues betray 

Our freedom with the kiss of anarchy . . .' 

The descendant of Baudelaire the man of sensation 
shows himself in the importance attached to feelings : 

*. . . to feel is better than to know, 
And wisdom is a childless heritage, 
One pulse of passion youth's first fiery glow- 
Are worth the hoarded proverbs of the sage : 
Vex not thy soul with dead philosophy, 
Have we not lips to kiss with, hearts to love, and eyes to see ! ' 

Baudelairian again in its artificiality is his charming 
' Le Panneau ' : 

'Under the rose-tree's dancing shade 
There stands a little ivory girl, 
Pulling the leaves of pink and pearl 
With pale green nails of polished jade. 


The red leaves fall upon the mould, 

The white leaves flutter one by one, 

Down to a blue bowl where the sun, 
Like a great dragon writhes in gold. 

The white leaves float upon the air, 

The red leaves flutter idly down, 

Some fall upon her yellow gown, 
And some upon her raven hair. 

She takes an amber lute and sings, 

And as she sings a silver crane 

Begins his scarlet neck to strain, 
And flap his burnished metal wings. 

She takes a lute of amber bright, 

And from the thicket where he lies 

Her lover, with his almond eyes, 
Watches her movements in delight.' 

The whole of the Sphinx, which, together with the 
Harlot's House, is Wilde's finest poetic achievement, is 
Baudelairian in its exotic mysterious inspiration, its 
technical perfection, the haunting effect of the internal 
rhymes. Pure Baudelaire are such lines as these : 

' Your eyes are like fantastic moons that shiver in some stagnant lake, 
Your tongue is like a scarlet snake that dances to fantastic tunes, 
Your pulse makes poisonous melodies, and your black throat is like the 

Left by some torch or burning coal on Saracenic tapestries.' 

The concluding lines of this poem are in the pessi- 
mistic temper we had come to expect : 

' False Sphinx ! False Sphinx ! By reedy Styx old Charon, leaning on 

his oar, 

Waits for my coin. Go thou before, and leave me to my crucifix, 
Whose pallid burden, sick with pain, watches the world with wearied 

And weeps for every soul that dies, and weeps for every soul in vain.' 

Finally, those lines of Baudelaire in the Heautontimo- 



' Je suis la plaie et le couteau 
Je suis le soufflet et la joue . . .' 

directly inspired Wilde's 

* Being ourselves the sowers and the seeds, 

The night that covers and the lights that fade, 
The spear that pierces and the side that bleeds, 
The lips betraying and the life betrayed.' 

These Baudelairian features that we find in the poems 
meet us again in the prose works, that is, in their critical 
side. Here again it should be borne in mind what a 
brilliant critic was Baudelaire ; indeed, Baudelaire may 
be considered the father of creative criticism, domain in 
which Swinburne is his descendant, and wherein Pater 
even surpassed him. We know how much Wilde owed 
to Pater our interest lies in seeking the Baudelairian 
ideas in the result. 

We find them most clearly set out in his Intentions, 
that volume of criticisms which first appeared in 1891, 
and which contains Wilde's best work. 

The first doctrine we should expect to find put forward 
is that of Vart pour Vart\ and it is so. Surely no man 
ever professed such horror of the utilitarian as Wilde. 
Early in the Decay of Lying we read : 

1 As long as a thing is useful or necessary to us, or affects us in 
any way, either for pain or pleasure, or appeals strongly to our 
sympathies, or is a vital part of the environment in which we live, 
it is outside the proper sphere of art? 

And he proceeds to condemn the novels with a purpose 
of Charles Reade, of Dickens. 

As he had said already in his Rise of Historical 
Criticism : 

* To set before either the painter or the historian the inculcation 
of moral lessons, as an aim to be consciously pursued, is to miss 
entirely the true motive and characteristic of both art and history, 
which is in the one case the creation of beauty, in the other the 
discovery of the laws of the evolution of progress : // ne faut 
demander de PArt que I' Art, du passt que le passe? 


Wilde had set out as a disciple of Keats, follower of the 
spirit of Beauty whose ultimate doctrine is 

' Beauty is Truth, and Truth Beauty' ; 

but the first step of your true Baudelairian is towards 
proving that the second part of the premise does not hold. 
Even so Wilde, like Baudelaire, declares himself no 
partisan of Nature : 

'The popular cry of our time is "Let us return to Life and 
Nature ! " . . . But alas ! we are mistaken in our well-meaning 
efforts. Nature is always behind the age. And as for Life, she is 
the solvent that breaks up Art, the enemy that lays waste her house. 
. . . One touch of Nature may make the whole world kin, but two 
touches of Nature will destroy any work of Art.' 

' The best one can say of modern creative art is that it is just a 
little less vulgar than reality.' 

' Those who do not love Plato more than Truth never know the 
inmost shrine of Art.' 

The duty of the artist is to make choice, and where 
necessary to improve upon reality. And in this way he 
must exercise restraint. This is the great lesson for the 
purely personal poet, a lesson which might be studied 
with advantage by Verlaine, and above all by Wordsworth. 
Hallward in Dorian Gray is made to carry this doctrine 
to its furthest point : ' An artist should create beautiful 
things, but should put nothing of his own life into them.' 

Andre Gide records how Wilde used to lay down as a 
principle to him : ' In art there is no first person.' 

In the same way Daudet's characters lost their charm 
for him once proved to be taken from life. 

For after all, can we lay down what is Truth ? Here is 
Oscar Wilde's answer to the question : 

' In matters of religion, it is simply the opinion that has survived. 
In matters of science, it is the ultimate sensation. In matters of art, 
it is one's last mood.' 


Wilde held the Baudelairian-Hegelian theory of the 
universe as a creation of our mind, and thus he is led to 
say, ' Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She 
is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life.' 

Just as Stevenson pointed out that though we admire a 
great picture, what is truly admirable is the appreciative- 
ness of our mind, Wilde, taken with the fancy, has 
developed it in one of his brilliantly paradoxical para- 
graphs, proving fogs an invention of Whistler, and 
sunsets out of date since the day of Turner. 

Baudelaire considered that the poet inevitably produces 
the critic, and this doctrine goes hand in hand with his 
continual assertion of the self-consciousness of art. Wilde 
holds the same view. 

1 Believe me, there is no fine art without self-consciousness, and 
self-consciousness and the critical spirit are one ' ; 

and a little further we read : 

' Each new school as it appears cries out against criticism, but it 
is to the critical faculty in man that it owes its origin. The mere 
creative instinct does not innovate, but reproduces.' 

The artist must set out with the clear idea of what he 
mtends to create, otherwise the effect cannot but be vague, 
and ' To the aesthetic temperament the vague is always 

The vague i and not the mysterious, as Mr. Symons 
was careful to point out. 

Mystery, on the contrary, is one of the elements of 
beauty true Baudelairian formula. The artist must 
look upon art as a ' goddess whose mystery it is his 
province to intensify, and whose majesty his privilege to 
make more marvellous in the eyes of men.* 

Or, as he puts it in Dorian Gray : * It is the uncertainty 
that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.' 

And from this it follows that Art must be suggestive, 


or, as Moreas put it, must never go quite so far as the 
conception de Videe en soi. 

1 It is through its very incompleteness that Art becomes complete 
in beauty, and so addresses itself not to the faculty of recognition 
nor to the faculty of reason, but to the aesthetic sense alone, which, 
while accepting both reason and recognition as stages of appre- 
hension, subordinates them both to a pure synthetic expression of 
the work of Art as a whole, and, taking whatever alien emotional 
elements the work may possess, uses their very complexity as 
a means by which a richer unity may be added to the ultimate 
impression itself.' 

So much then for the resemblance of purely critical 
ideas. There is also in Wilde some of the spirit of fear 
that haunts Poe and Baudelaire ; he too has been haunted 
by grotesque fancies, and troubled by the ' malady of 
reverie/ when 

1 gradually white fingers creep through the curtains, and they 
appear to tremble. In black fantastic shapes, dumb shadows crawl 
into the corners of the room, and crouch there. Outside, there is 
the stirring of birds among the leaves, or the sound of men going 
forth to their work, or the sigh and sob of the wind coming down 
from the hills, and wandering round the silent house, as though it 
feared to wake the sleepers, and yet must needs call forth sleep from 
her purple cave. Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and 
by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, 
and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern : 
out of the unreal shadows of the night comes back the real life that 
we had known. We have to resume it where we had left off, and there 
steals over us a terrible sense of the necessity for the continuance 
of energy in the same wearisome round of stereotyped habits, or a 
wild longing, it may be, that our eyelids might open some morning 
upon a world that had been refashioned anew in the darkness for 
our pleasure, a world in which things would have fresh shapes and 
colours, and be changed or have other secrets, a world in which the 
past would have little or no place, or survive at any rate, in no 
conscious form of obligation or regret, the remembrance even of 
joy having its bitterness, and the memories of pleasure their pain.' 


It is in the power of creating these worlds that Dorian 
Gray is essentially Baudelairian, in his ceaseless pursuit 
of sensation. 

Fear of consequences is ethically the lowest reason for 
not sinning nor had Dorian Gray any of this fear. He 
considered that 

1 ... the true nature of the senses had never been understood, and 
that they had remained savage and animal merely because the world 
had sought to starve them into submission or to kill them by pain, 
instead of aiming at making them elements of a new spirituality, of 
which a fine instinct for beauty was to be the dominant charac- 
teristic. As he looked back upon man moving through History, he 
was haunted by a feeling of loss. So much had been surrendered ! 
and to such little purpose ! ' 

In the descriptions of the various modes of pursuit of 
sensation in the eleventh chapter of Dorian Gray though 
the starting-point be from Baudelaire, there is also very 
much Huysmans. We are minded at every turn of des 
Esseintes ; there is the same interest in the Catholic ritual, 
in mysticism, in perfumes. There is the same searching 
for correspondences in the interpretation of that music, 
the same interest in the gorgeous pomps of life in the 
past, the same intimate acquaintance with its wealth of 
detail. (The same thing was already apparent in the 
passage where he describes Wainwright's luxurious 
tastes Pen, Pencil and Poison.) Certainly if Huysmans 
had never written, Dorian Gray would have been very 
different, even had he existed. 

And is not Salome entirely inspired by those pages 
in A Rebours, which contain Huysmans' interpretative 
criticism of Moreau's Salome paintings. 

The resemblance to Verlaine is very strong in the 
celebrations of suffering. The beauty of the revelation of 
suffering occurred to both in prison. 

'There are times when sorrow seems to me the only truth. 
Other things may be illusions of the eye, of the appetite, made to 


blind the one and cloy the other, but out of sorrow have the worlds 
been built, and at the birth of a child or a star there is pain. 

In fact, it is this theme that is the prevailing one 
throughout De Profundis. 

Finally, Wilde's style in his Poems in Prose, his 
Happy Prince, and House of Pomegranates, aims at a 
Baudelairian ideal, the 

* ... miracle of a poetical prose, musical, rhythmless, rhymeless, 
both supple enough and abrupt enough to adapt itself to the lyrical 
movements of the soul, to the modulations of reverie, to the 
startings-up of conscience.' 

Wilde did frequently produce a prose which is a very 
beautiful instrument : certain passages from De Profundis, 
or from, let us say, The Fisherman and his Soul, are 
among the finest in our language. 

Dorian Gray too reminds us of Baudelaire's Samuel 
Cramer in La Fanfarlo, who was all the artists he had 
ever studied, and all the books he had read. 

'There were times when it appeared to Dorian Gray that the 
whole of history was merely the record of his own life, not as he 
had lived in it in act and circumstance, but as his imagination had 
created it for him, as it had been in his brain and in his passions. 
He felt that he had known them all, those strange terrible figures 
that had passed across the stage of the world and made sin so 
marvellous, and evil so full of subtlety. It seemed to him that in 
some mysterious way their lives had been his own.' 

We have already remarked on the fact that the 
Baudelairian movement leads into mysticism. Oscar 
Wilde felt the same thing. In De Profundis he tells us : 

* I am conscious now that behind all this beauty, satisfying 
though it may be, there is some spirit hidden of which the painted 
forms and shapes are but modes of manifestation, and it is with 
this Spirit that I desire to become in harmony. I have grown tired 
of the articulate utterances of men and things. The Mystical in 
Art, the Mystical in Life, the Mystical in Nature this is what I am 
looking for.' 


There is also a good deal of Baudelaire's delight in 
mystification, or that of the Baudelairians in general in 
the power to epater le bourgeois, in Oscar Wilde's con- 
nection with that aesthetic movement which has been 
so admirably recorded for us by Du Maurier and W. S. 

Laforgue said of Baudelaire that he was the first to 
break with the public. Oscar Wilde, who had doubtless 
read Laforgue, rejoiced in what his enemies call his 
pose of despising what most men respect. 

He wrote : 

'Morality is the attitude we adopt towards people we cannot 

* To be as artificial as possible is the first duty in life. What the 
second is, no one yet knows.' 

Far more circumspect than Baudelaire, far more man 
of the world than Verlaine, he saw what an excellent puff 
as regards the general English public or University 
students lay in his (to say the least of it) eccentric 
attitude. For who in England knew Baudelaire and 
Verlaine towards 1890? A few men of letters certainly, 
but a few only. Oscar Wilde certainly saw the advantage 
to be gained from this ignorance on the part of the 
English public. 

Not that we wish to depreciate him ; but when we come 
to study his curious, complicated nature we are glad to 
discover a thread in the skein. 



IN England as in France the Baudelairian spirit has not 
yet ceased working. We have already referred to the 
difficulty of discussing a movement on the part of living 
writers, and will, as before, content ourselves with little 
more than mention. 

In the first place, then, the Baudelairian spirit is making 
itself felt in the modern Irish literary movement. It is in 
the symbolism of Yeats, it was in the stiggestiveness of 
Synge (and the fact that these two, dramatically, owe 
something to Maeterlinck is no hindrance to our theory), 
it is in the dreamy mysticism of A. E., and in that of 
R. H. Benson and of Mr Arthur Machen. 

Mr. Arthur Symons is a Baudelairian as critic rather 
than as poet. It was a Baudelairian who said, ' To 
understand is to create.' As critic he has shown himself 
in thorough sympathy with the Baudelairian movement ; 
he has its melancholy love of sadness (* Only very young 
people want to be happy'), and there is a Baudelairian 
confession in the 'Amends to Nature/ 

' I have loved colours and not flowers, 

Their motion, not the swallow's wings ; 
And wasted more than half my hours 
Without the comradeship of things.' 

From time to time in his poems the Baudelairian influ- 
ence is discernible. In ' Images of Good and Evil ' it is 
marked ; but on the whole the poems are not the more 
important portion of Mr. Symons' work. 


His Spiritual Adventures, with their seeking to investi- 
gate 'the other things,' have something Baudelairian in 
them, and from time to time recall Huysmans. 

But at the present time there are above all two very 
interesting writers who owe so much to the Baudelairian 
spirit that we shall allow ourselves to study them in more 
detail. We mean Mr Arthur Machen and Mr. George 


Mr. Arthur Machen is indeed one of the most Baude- 
lairian of contemporary writers. 

In his works we again meet the distrust of nature from 
the documentary point of view the denunciation of 
* Romans a Clef,' leading up to this declaration : 

'It comes to this again and again that Art and Life are two 
different spheres, and that the Artist with a capital A is not a 
clever photographer who understands selection to a greater or less 

There is the same importance given to ecstasy * which 
is the withdrawal, the standing apart from common life,' 
and this ' standing apart ' naturally leads him to seek 
' the other things,' which are to be found 

'sometimes in the song of a bird, sometimes in the scent of a 
flower, sometimes in the whirl of a London street, sometimes hidden 
under a great lonely hill. Some of us seek them with most hope in 
the sacring of the Mass, others receive tidings in the sound of music, 
in the colour of a picture, in the shining form of a statue, and in the 
meditation of eternal truth.' 

His latest work The Hill of Dreams is full of Baude- 
lairism. Here is a description of a scene in the woods as 
his hero Lucian feels it : 

'Slowly and timidly he began to untie his boots, fumbling with 
the laces, and glancing all the while on every side at the ugly mis- 
shapen trees that hedged the lawn. Not a branch was straight, not 


one was free, but all were interlaced and grew one about another ; 
and just above ground, where the cankered stems joined the pro- 
tuberant roots, there were forms that imitated the human shape, and 
faces and twining limbs that amazed him. Green mosses were hair, 
and tresses were stark in grey lichen ; a twisted root swelled into a 
limb ; in the hollows of the rooted bark he saw the masks of men. 
... As he gazed across the turf and into the thicket, the sunshine 
seemed really to become green, and the contrast between the bright 
glow poured on the lawn, and the black shadow of the brake made 
an odd flickering light, in which all the grotesque postures of stem 
and root began to stir ; the wood was alive. The turf beneath him 
heaved and sunk as with the deep swell of the sea. . . .' 

This Lucian is a descendant of Baudelaire in his interest 
in perfumes. Here is an interesting passage : 

' The sun still beat upon the roses, and a little breeze bore the 
scent of them to his nostrils together with the smell of grapes and 
vine leaves. He had become curious in sensation, and as he leant 
back upon the cushions covered with glistening yellow silk he was 
trying to analyse a strange ingredient in the perfume of the air. He 
had penetrated far beyond the crude distinctions of modern times, 
beyond the rough : " there 's a smell of roses," " there must be sweet- 
briar somewhere." Modern perceptions of odour were, he knew, 
far below those of the savage in delicacy. The degraded black 
fellow of Australia could distinguish odours in a way that made the 
consumer of " damper " stare in amazement, but the savage's sensa- 
tions were all strictly utilitarian. To Lucian, as he sat in the cool 
porch, his feet on the marble, the air came laden with scents, as 
subtly and wonderfully interwoven and contrasted as the harmonies 
of a great master. The stained marble of the pavement gave a cool 
reminiscence of the Italian mountain, the blood-red roses sent out 
an odour mystical as passion itself, and there was the hint of 
inebriation in the perfume of the trellised vines. . . .' 

And again : 

'He could imagine a man who was able to live on one sense 
while he pleased ; to whom, for example, every impression of touch, 
taste, hearing, or seeing should be translated into odour; who, at 
the desired kiss should be ravished with the scent of dark violets, 
to whom music should be the perfume of a rose-garden at dawn.' 


The problem of the boundary line between the various 
senses, and the possibility of their merging had attracted 
him : 

' The fancy that sensations are symbols and not realities hovered 
in his mind, and led him to speculate as to whether they could not 
actually be transmitted one into another. It was impossible, he 
thought, that a whole continent of knowledge had been undis- 
covered ; the energies of men having been expended in unimportant 
and foolish directions. Modern ingenuity had been employed on 
such trifles as locomotive engines, electric cables, and cantilever 
bridges; on elaborate devices for bringing uninteresting people 
nearer together ; the ancients had been almost as foolish, because 
they had mistaken the symbol for the thing signified. It was not 
the material banquet which really mattered but the thought of it ; 
it was almost as futile to eat, and take emetics, and eat again, as to 
invent telephones and high-pressure boilers. As for some other 
ancient methods of enjoying life, one might as well set oneself to 
improve calico printing at once.' 

The importance ascribed to sensation comes out again 
in his remarks on language : 

' Language, he understood, was chiefly important for the beauty 
of its sounds, by its possession of words resonant, glorious to the 
ear, by its capacity, when exquisitely arranged, of suggesting 
wonderful and indefinable impressions, perhaps more ravishing and 
further removed from the domain of strict thought than the impres- 
sions excited by music itself. Here lay hidden the secret of the 
sensuous art of literature ; it was the secret of suggestion, the art of 
causing delicious sensation by the use of words.' 

Finally, Mr. Machen is Baudelairian in his Catholicism 
w^hich for him, as for Barbey d'Aurevilly, is the root of 
all things. For him without an, at the least, subconscious 
acceptance of Catholic dogma there is no literature : 

* Don't imagine that you can improve your literary chances by 
subscribing the Catechism of The Decrees of the Council of Trent. 
No ; I can give you no such short and easy plan for excelling ; but 
I tell you that unless you have assimilated the final dogmas the 


eternal truths upon which those things rest, consciously if you 
please, but subconsciously of necessity, you can never write literature, 
however clever and amusing you may be. Think of it, and you 
will see that, from the literary standpoint, Catholic dogma is merely 
the witness, under a special symbolism of the enduring facts of 
human nature and the universe ; it is merely the voice which tells 
us distinctly that man is not the creature of the drawing-room and 
the Stock Exchange, but a lonely awful soul confronted by the 
Source of all Souls, and you will realise that to make literature it is 
necessary to be, at all events, subconsciously Catholic.' 


' There was a certain king of Bo he . 

1 As the corporal was entering the confines of Bohemia, 
my uncle Toby obliged him to halt for a certain moment.' 

And in the end, in spite of more than one attempt on 
the good corporal's part to continue his story, we never 
know any more about it. 

Readers of the Confessions of a Young Man wonder 
whether this may not be the king of Bohemia anticipated 
by Corporal Trim. For if ever there were a true king of 
Bohemia, it was George Moore, one of the princes of 
New Athens, the literary tavern frequented by Villiers de 
1'Isle Adam, Catulle Mendes, Degas and Manet. 

Mr. George Moore was, and still is, what the Parisian 
milieu where he spent the most decisive years of his 
youth made him. 

Somewhere in the Confessions he writes : 

* How to be happy ! not to read Baudelaire and Verlaine, not to 
enter the Nouvelle Athenes, unless perhaps to play dominoes like 
the bourgeois over there, not to do anything that would awake too 
intense consciousness of life ! . . .' 

But with him such words only serve to further vivify 
the feeling of life which he would exasperate. The true 
Moore, the one who knows himself, is the one who 
writes : 


' I am a sensualist in literature ; I may see perfectly well that this 
or that book is a work of genius, but if it doesn't " fetch me " it 
doesn't concern me, and I forget its very existence. What leaves 
me cold to-day will madden me to-morrow. With me literature is 
a question of sense, intellectual sense, if you will, but sense all the 
same, and ruled by the same caprices, those of the flesh ! ' 

One cannot wish for a deeper confession. A few pages 
further on he adds : 

' Oh for excess, for crime ! I would give many lives to save one 
sonnet by Baudelaire ; for the hymn ' A la tres-chtre, a la tres-belle, 
qui rcmplit mon cceur de clarte' let the firstborn in every house in 
Europe be slain; and in all sincerity I profess my readiness to 
decapitate all the Japanese in Japan and elsewhere to save from 
destruction one drawing by Hokusai.' 

What could be more Baudelairian ? 

'I did not go to either Oxford or Cambridge,' writes 
Mr. Moore. We should perhaps congratulate him upon 
this, did he not congratulate himself so much. It is quite 
clear that through making a very mediocre study of his 
humanities he gained by the discovery of certain things 
discovered long before Homer. Mr. Moore is at bottom 
a primitive, an Irish primitive with the highly-strung 
nerves of a. petite maitresse, the spirit of his race rendered 
keen by his commerce with Parisians, and above all the 
gift of seeing the comic side of things. 

In his acute perception of the grotesque he reminds us 
above all of J. K. Huysmans ; and indeed no French 
writer had more influence upon him than Huysmans 
the most personal writer of the later nineteenth century. 
Not only does his masterpiece, Evelyn Innes, with its 
study of mysticism in the soul of a great artist recall the 
author of En Route on every page, but we find con- 
tinually the same artistic method, the love of detail for 
detail's sake, and a minute analysis, as it were, of facts in 
themselves minute. 

Evelyn Innes might be described as a book written 


round music with erotic intermezzi. The heroine herself 
is a Huysmans in petticoats. 

One understands well how Evelyn Innes and Sister 
Teresa were written, partly under the influence of the 
French writer who furnished the artistic mould, and 
partly with the writer's own experiences (therein again 
following the Huysmans formula). 

The author of En Route passes from naturalism to 
mysticism ; it is disgust that purifies his soul and cleanses 
it from all stain. In the same way, Evelyn Innes * de- 
ceiving Owen, deceiving her father, deceiving Ulick, 
deceiving Monsignor' (p. 329) feels so wearied that she 
thinks of killing herself, but instead becomes ' Sister 
Teresa.' The extreme sensitiveness which constitutes 
the whole character of Evelyn Innes must fatally have 
brought her to that. 

The great difference between Huysmans and George 
Moore lies in this, that the French writer is sincere in his 
conversion. He wants to be a better, a more deserving 
man. Too long was he busied with work in which he 
did not believe. Such a state must come to an end. 
To live as ... we all live, seems miserable to him. 
Not so with George Moore. 

With Evelyn Innes it is true that there is a feeling of 
the impurity of her life, but that is all. ' It was her sins 
of the flesh that she wanted to confess, and this argument 
about the Incarnation had begun to seem out of place. 
Suddenly it seemed to her inexpressibly ludicrous that 
she should be kneeling beside the priest' (p. 395). Is 
not this verily George Moore? George Moore, the 
ironist? Far indeed are we from Huysmans after his 

We have not space to attempt to analyse those two 
long novels Evelyn Innes and Sister Teresa. The future 
will know if they are masterpieces. They will last if they 
are true. As M. Paul Bourget has said, ' All the magic 


of a talent for writing is powerless to preserve a work 
which is not above all and before all a testimony of truth. 
The Chateaubriand of the Genie du Chris tianisme, of the 
Martyrs, of Atala even, and of Rene, would be but a 
magnificent name if there were not also the Chateaubriand 
of the Memoires d'outre-Tombe, the painter of Combourg.' 
It was doubtless from his Flemish forefathers that 
Huysmans inherited this gift of representing the cari- 
catural aspect of man and things. George Moore, who 
from his youth detested Ireland and her religion (' two 
dominant notes in my character, an original hatred of 
my native country, and a brutal loathing of the religion 
I was brought up in ' Confessions of a Young Man, 
chap, ix), was already prepared to see the ridiculous side 
of things. 

Under the influence of his Parisian surroundings this 
taste for the ugly developed. We should have liked to 
read a still more detailed analysis of his Parisian 
entourage. Had he led in those days a somewhat more 
spiritual life he would have discerned in all these de- 
cadents, these mandarins of the Nouvelle Athenes and 
elsewhere, a complacent pride at the sight of the plati- 
tude of humanity's raillery, what a seventeenth-century 
preacher might have called the concupiscence of de- 

Possibly at this time Huysmans had not the great 
influence upon Moore that he most certainly had later on. 
Mr. Moore speaks continually of his admiration for 
Balzac, herein showing his taste and his excellent critical 
sense. But once back in England he must have been 
clearly attracted by that incontestable affinity existing 
between Huysmans and himself. 

Mr. George Moore is a terrible railer. He is what 
the French call narquois. Lately, he has returned to a 
manner which, in 1888, seemed premature: that of the 
Confessions. He describes for us the Irish literary move- 


ment of the last fifteen years, in which he has been one 
of the principal actors. 

Madame de Boigne of the famous memoirs used to say : 
4 Do you want to know why Chateaubriand is greater 
than Jean Jacques Rousseau? Because Chateaubriand 
always felt, even in his youth, that he would one day 
write his memoirs. He walked through life with this 
arriere-pensee. That was his conscience.' And doubtless 
Mr. Moore has gone through life with the same purpose. 
But certainly this has not been his conscience. 

As he writes his recollections, he has none of that thirst 
for humiliation which a penitent may feel, but far rather 
the aim of satisfying his innate desire to humiliate others. 
His latest volume is a portfolio of cruel caricatures. He 
brings us to a certain banquet in Dublin, where the 
apostles of the movement are very charmingly dressed. 
Good honest Irishmen become really grotesque under his 
caricatural brush. 

He is very Baudelairian in this sense that, though 
ceaselessly incredulous, he pretends to believe in this 
movement of Irish faith. This is a terribly deep epicurism. 
Of the enthusiastic ardour of the Dublin circle he has 
kept just enough to cook us a very spicy, very highly 
flavoured dish. 

This caricaturist talent which cannot stop ridiculing 
everything has developed with time, to become almost 
the main attraction of his last volume Ave, and his 
articles ' In Search of Divinity.' It has been his fortune 
to know Yeats and A. E. those two great poets. How 
does the author of Lake Isle of Innisfree, or the Countess 
Kathleen, or the Wind among the Reeds, figure under 
his incisive pen ? As a sort of crow with a ' melancholy 
caw.' That is the picture which always remains in the 
reader's mind. 

Though he is far more respectful towards George 
Russell can any one imagine a more extraordinary 



journey than that descent with A. E. into the tumuli 
of ancient Ireland? Really one regrets that the writer 
should have put the author of Homeward Songs by the 
Way into a posture which has a touch of the ridiculous, 
while he is supposed to be invoking the gods of Erin's 

We do not doubt of the truth of the episode, but surely 
there was another way of looking at it, and the whole 
incident might have become sublime had Mr. Moore 
been truly touched. To borrow a sentence from the 
Confessions of a Young Man, ' we wonder if it is only 
une blague qu'on nous a faite.' 


' In the salt terror of a stormy sea 
There are high altitudes the mind forgets ; 
And undesired days are hunting nets 
To snare the souls that fly Eternity. 
But we being gods will never bow the knee, 
Though sad moons shadow every sun that sets. 
And tears of sorrow be like rivulets 
To feed the shallows of Humility. 
Within my soul are some mean gardens found 
Where drooped flowers are, and unsung melodies, 
And all companioning of piteous things. 
But in the midst is one high terrace ground, 
Where level lawns sweep through the stately trees 
And the great peacocks walk like painted kings.' 

City of the Soul 

Is not this very beautiful sonnet a confession from 
Lord Alfred Douglas of his Baudelairian readings 
another setting of the Samain refrain * Mon ame est une 
infante en robe de parade.' To make, thanks to in- 
genious images, a verse projection of one's secret soul 
was the delight of Lord Alfred Douglas, following in his 
master's footsteps. When he writes, 

* Or if fate cries and grudging gods demur, 
To clutch Life's hair, and thrust one naked phrase 
Like a lean knife between the ribs of Time,' 


we see what it is that he pursues ; it is the coloured picture 
which will serve to translate what he has been feeling, 
and let us hasten to say that he finds most admirable 
metaphors which are indeed the exact and subtle ex- 
pression of his sentiment. 

The fact that Lord Alfred Douglas was received into 
the Catholic Church in May 1911 far from astonishing 
confirms us in the opinion that he is a true symbolist. For 
from dawn of day till nightfall, at every hour marked by 
liturgical prayer the Catholic lives in a world of symbols. 
Not only the biblical images, the evangelical parables, but 
the ceremonial of the cult, the very form of the churches, 
everything down to the priest's vestments speaks by means 
of symbols. 

Having boarded Baudelaire's boat he floated down the 
river of ennui, whence he saw 

* The earth a vision of affright, 
And men a sordid crowd, 
And felt the fears, and drank the bitter tears, 
And saw the empty houses of Delight.' 

Baudelaire's influence is felt in such poems of the City 
of the Soul as * The Sphinx,' * Autumn Days,' * To Sleep,' 
and there are also in this volume two beautiful translations 
from Baudelaire, 'LeBalcon,' and < Harmonie du Soir.' 
In that wonderful slender volume of sonnets which 
appeared in 1909, not the least beautiful are the two 
translations from Baudelaire : comprendre c'est egaler, 
and the converse is also true. 


There is a certain bronze, one of the most exquisite of 
antiquity's legacies, a statue of Dionysos. With upraised 
finger the god is listening, and begs of you to listen, to 
the world's mysterious music. When you see it you 
begin to walk on tiptoe. 

In the same way, the poetry of Middleton in expressing 


the distress of this our age of doubts and desires, leads us 
to discover the sacred beauty of the Invisible around us. 

4 Beloved, can you hear ? They sing 
Words that no mortal lips can sound. . . .' 

The two volumes of Middleton's works which we 
possess are tremulous with the thought of Death, the 


' For Death is upon the skies 
And upon us all ' 

with the thought that we are but dreams, and that the 
best way with life is to remain for ever a child, or at least 
to treasure the remembrance of our childhood. ' Our 
moments are the ghosts of old moments.' 

His book of short stories guides us step by step through 
the corridors of Memory's house ; we remember being 
children among children, we remember being ill and the 
pleasures attendant upon our illness. With the exception 
of The Ghost Ship each story is one of Memory's unused 
chambers, come to life again because real, living children 
have passed through it : little Edward, who is after all 
1 no very wonderful little boy ' ; or Jack, the postmaster's 
son, consoling himself for his father's imprisonment : 
4 Never mind, mother, we '11 help him to escape ' ; or the 
shepherd's boy, a hero he ; or again the Children of the 

Middleton's sentences are woven by tender fairy hands 
I mean, mothers' or old nurses' to tuck up these fleet- 
ing little beings in the gossamer of his words. 

You are made to think of one of Baudelaire's beautiful 
prose-poems, Desespoir de la Vieille, and you ask your- 
self: Is not Middleton just what Baudelaire held im- 
prisoned in his heart? Is he not that mysterious something 
that was ever striving to gush forth from Baudelaire's 
heart, but never could ? 

There is no doubt that Middleton knew his Baudelaire. 


It is enough to compare On the Brighton Road, Children 
of the Moon, Blue Blood, with the prose-poems Le Ver el 
le Cimetiere, Deja, les Vocations, to see to what a pitch 
the English writer was impregnated with the French one. 
* Something conscious of the intolerable evil called life ' 
animates both of them. Both were men who did nothing 
but dream and gaze out of the window, (A Wet Day, les 

Mr. Henry Savage saw that Middleton, ' Dionysian of 
spirit and broken, invites comparison with Wilde,' a 
fortiori with Baudelaire. 

Barbey d'Aurevilly wrote to Baudelaire that the only 
thing for the latter to do was either to become a Christian 
... or blow his brains out. Richard Middleton died by 
his own hand. 

And here we must leave the consideration of the 
Baudelairian spirit in literature. The influence continues 
to make itself felt sometimes clearly and definitely, 
sometimes combining with other influences and working 
more darkly, but always in such a way as to justify our 
placing of Baudelaire among those men but for whom in 
some way, great or small, literature had been other than 
it is. 




IN order to understand the pictures of a school of painting, 
or even the work of a great master, it is necessary to know 
the moral atmosphere in which he lived, or thanks to which 
the painter and his disciples have created their masterpieces. 

Painting is the representation of nature and of life by 
means of drawing and colour, but it is necessarily neither 
the whole of nature nor the whole of life. Who says art, 
says choice, and it is obvious that one age will make a 
choice which another will merely ridicule. 

Thus the old Italian masters sought their inspiration in 
the Scriptures, while the great seventeenth-century Dutch 
school desired only to paint scenes of private life or 
certain features of national landscape. 

Charles Lebrun, who guides the course of the seven- 
teenth-century art in France, draws his inspiration from 
sacred and mythological subjects, despising those of 
contemporary life. 

Then Watteau, and after him Lancret, Pater, Boucher, 
Fragonard, Troy, Charles Coypel, Van Loo, are the 
artists of the Surprises, Joys, and Sorrows of Love. 

David and his school, forcing themselves to imitate a 
kind of pseudo-antiquity, turn to Roman (or Napoleonic) 

We see, then, that painting which represents life is as 
varied as life itself. And thus it is not surprising that 
from time to time an artist should be born who is no 
longer content with painting material objects, but who 



aims at painting ideas. After all, ideas are a part of life, 
since it is thought that orders life. Now, if it be possible to 
find clear traces of the influence of literature on painting, it 
is in the study of this class of artists that we must seek them. 

In the seventeenth century in France, Nicolas Poussin 
is assuredly the representative of cartesianism in painting. 
When he says, speaking of colours, i Nos appetits n'en 
doivent pas juger seulement, mais aussi la raison,' he 
is a true disciple of Boileau with his dictum, ' Suivez 
done la raison. . . .' 

Therefore he is not content with putting in his land- 
scapes a man who passes on his way, or a woman carrying 
fruit to market. He generally places therein thinking 
figures to awaken our thought ; men who are influenced 
by passion, in order to awaken our passions. 1 

In the same way without seeking further afield the 
English painter Watts with his mythical art explains the 
cry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, that Art is the inter- 
preter of the holy things which happen beyond the veil. 

Now, between 1824 and 1860 there was working a very 
great painter, quite different from Poussin as regards 
drawing, and yet like him in that he too believed that 
' inventer dans un art, c'est penser et sentir dans cet art.' 

It will be in such a painter that we shall find (if it is to 
be found) the influence of literature in general or, let us 
say, of certain ideas in particular. 

For us, the interest lies in seeing whether the ideas of 
the painter Delacroix are to be found in the poet Baude- 
laire, and vice versa. 

First of all, we would say then that at the beginning of 
the nineteenth century no painter felt himself to be so 
much the contemporary of the poets among whom he 
lived as Delacroix, no painter interpreted certain literary 
scenes with such passion, nor dramatised history with 
such eloquence ; and none was so nobly appreciated nor 

1 Du Bos, Reflexions critiques sur la poesie et la ptinture> 1719. 


so justly celebrated by Baudelaire himself, both in his 
important critical articles and in the ever famous lines : 

* Delacroix, lac de sang, hante de mauvais anges, 
Ombrage par tin bois de sapins toujours vert, 
Ou, sous un ciel chagrin, des fanfares etranges 
Passent comme un soupir etouffe de Weber. 3 

No one has ever criticised Delacroix better than Baude- 
laire in the following passages : 

' What Delacroix has translated better than any one else is the un- 
translatable, the impalpable, the dream, the nerves, the soul; and 
he has done all this without other means than form and colour ; he 
has done it better than any one else, with the perfection of a con- 
summate painter, with the precision of a subtle man of letters, the 
eloquence of a passionate musician. However, it is one of the 
symptoms of the spiritual condition of our century that the arts aspire 
to, if not supplementing one another, at least to lending each other new 

' Delacroix is the most suggestive of all painters, the artist whose 
works, even if you make a choice among the secondary and weaker 
ones, give rise to the most thought, and call to mind the greatest 
number of poetical feelings and thoughts known, but which were 
believed to be buried for ever in the night of the past.' 

And then Baudelaire adds these profound lines : 

' Every one knows that yellow, orange, red, inspire and represent 
ideas of joy, riches, glory and love. . . . The art of the colourist is 
evidently related on some sides to mathematics and music.' 

What we must again point out is the way in which 
Baudelaire characterises Delacroix, and that in which 
Theophile Gautier in his turn characterises Baudelaire. 
For while Gautier points out in Baudelaire 

'the morbidly rich shades of decay in a more or less advanced 
stage, those tones of pearl and mother-of-pearl, like ice covering 
over stagnant waters ; hectic flushes, consumptive pallor, this 
jaundiced ochre of extravasated bile, leaden greys of mephitic 
mist, and all the scale of tortured colours carried to the highest 
point, corresponding to autumn, sunset, over-ripe fruits, and the 
last hours of civilisations,' 


Baudelaire admires in Delacroix, as we have just seen, 
le lac de sang, hante de mauvais anges. In describing 
him he speaks of the cruelty of his expression. 1 

He also speaks (as we shall see a little further on) of the 
violet or greenish backgrounds which reveal the phos- 
phorescence of decay and the hint of storm. 

What at once strikes the student of Baudelaire and 
Delacroix is the restlessness of both painter and poet. 
They have neither calm strength nor serene beauty. 

Delacroix's characters, like Baudelaire's, like Baudelaire 
himself, struggle and are contorted they are always the 
damned of Delacroix's famous picture ' Dante and Virgil.' 
Both these artists are painters of violence : from some of 
Delacroix's pictures, as from some of Baudelaire's poems, 
there emanates the odour of the charnel-house. 

A study of Delacroix's heads suggests the idea that he 
was realising an ideal of cruelty. The eyes have a faun- 
like expression, the jaws a tigerish ferocity. It is in 
creating monsters that his talent reaches its height. 

If the resemblance between the two men is to be 
accentuated, the critic has only to study the interiors 
in which Delacroix seeks by the aid of voluptuous half 
shades to render the charm of the female body. 

For ourselves, if we had to sum up, in a few lines, the 
art of the painter and the revolution he brought about, and 
the art of the poet and the revolution he brought about, 
we would apply the same words to both we would say : 
4 Both restored to colour all its rights and importance 
the one in painting, the other in poetry.' 

We have only to think of the school of David and the 
grey ideal it had imposed for thirty years. 

We have only to consider the grey style of the erotic 

1 ' II a pu quelquefois, car il ne manquait certes de tendresse, consacrer son 
pinceau a 1'expression de sentiments tendres et voluptueux, mais la encore 1'in- 
guerissable amertume etait repandue a forte dose, et 1'insouciance et lajoie en 


school before Baudelaire, and its chief Parny. Is it 
possible to imagine a language which could be thinner, 
drier, more insipid ? 

Both, too, created ' new thrills,' by revealing the 
affinities of our senses : Delacroix by rendering painting, 
as it were, musical, combining his luminous vibrations so 
as to make a harmony of them ; Baudelaire seeking above 
all to make artistic transpositions. 

To be exact, we must point out that it was the English 
spirit which revealed them to themselves. With Baude- 
laire there is no doubt about it we have shown how he 
studied Poe. As for Delacroix, not only was he friendly 
with Bonnington and Thales Fielding, but he had an almost 
instinctive love of English romantic literature. It was 
this taste which led him to visit London in 1823, on which 
occasion he admired Kean in several Shakespearean roles, 
and Terry as Mephistopheles in an adaptation of Faust. 

But the most interesting proof of their resemblance lies 
in the fact that they each created a similar school. Both 
were the fathers of impressionism the one of impres- 
sionism in painting, the other of impressionism in poetry. 

When Poussin says : * The pretty girls who pass by in 
the streets of Nimes at their appearance delight the mind 
no less than the beautiful columns of the Maison Carree, 
seeing that the latter are but copies of the former,' the 
thought though deep is but the thought of a draughtsman. 

If we wish to know what thoughts were suggested to 
Delacroix by beautiful forms in the sun, we have only to 
consult his Journal. He tells us how one day he notices 
the effect of the ragamuffins who climb up the statues of 
the fountain in the Place St. Sulpice, and of the raboteur 
he sees from his window in the gallery. 

He notes how much in the latter the half-tints of the 
flesh are coloured in comparison with the inert matter, and 
he adds : * Flesh has its true colour only in the open air.' 

Thus while Poussin sees the subject as a sculptor, while 


what he aims at rendering is attitude, Delacroix is indeed 
intoxicated with what he sees. Born with a highly im- 
pressionable eye, he was continually studying and seeking 
his way till the day when Constable's pictures were ex- 
hibited in Paris. His notes and his letters prove that he 
felt absolutely dazzled by these paintings. 

Seeking to enter into rivalry with the English painter 
he soon arrived at the conclusion that the strokes should 
never be blended. We read in his Journal : 

' Green and violet tones put on crudely, here and there in the 
light part without mixing them . . . green and violet : with these 
shades it is indispensable to put them on one after the other, and 
not mix them on the palette.' 

Then the question arises : what law shall preside at 
this juxtaposition of strokes? Delacroix discovered it by 
chance after noticing a yellow carriage with its violet 
shadow. 1 When he was engaged on painting a yellow 
drapery which he could not make bright enough he under- 
stood the lesson that the yellow carriage was teaching him. 
From that moment he set himself to study the laws of 
complementary colours and their modifications by light. 

He seems to have been the first to foresee the recom- 
position on the retina of the colours that are separated on 
the canvas. Thus he was really, as Paul Signac calls 
him, the ancestor of the impressionists. 

In the same way Baudelaire is the ancestor of the 
impressionist poets. At the same time as Gautier, but 
certainly better than he, he not only makes an extra- 
ordinary transposition of art, but he is the standard- 
bearer of all the younger generation who loved the violent, 
convulsed, and tragic side of nature. 

Joubert said of Bernardin de Saint Pierre : 

* There is in his style a prism which tires the eyes. When you 
have been reading him for a long time you are delighted to see the 

1 Th6ophile Silvestre, Les artistes fran$ais . 


plants and trees less highly coloured in the country than in his 

One wonders what he would have said of Baudelaire, 
for greater brush magic is not to be desired. 

We will content ourselves with quoting a few lines of 
Charles Asselineau (see Appendix to Fleurs du Mai, p. 391) 
which give a wonderfully good idea of the reader's im- 
pression on reading Baudelaire : 

' The piece " Parfum Exotique " is remarkable for this faculty 
of seizing upon the imperceptible and giving a picturesque reality to 
the most subtle and fleeting sensations. The poet seated beside his 
mistress one autumn evening is intoxicated by a warm perfume ; he 
finds in this perfume something strange and exotic which makes 
him dream of far-off lands, and immediately there pass by in 
the mirror of his thought blessed banks, dazzled by the sun's fires, 
languid islets where curious trees grow, Indians with lithe active 
bodies, women with bold look. 

' Je vois un port rempli de voiles et de mats 
Encor tout fatigues par la vague marine, 
Pendant que le parfum des verts tamariniers, 
Qui circule dans Pair et m'enfle la narine, 
Se mele dans mon ame au chant des mariniers ! 

' If I wanted to cite other proofs of this rare magical faculty of 
picturesque creation, examples would flow from my pen. Since 
I am forced to limit myself, having been too diffuse, I can 
only refer the reader to the pieces called les Phares, la Muse 
Malade, le Gutgnon, la Vie Anterieure^ De Profundis clamavi, 
le Balcon, la Cloche ft lee, etc.' 

It pleases us to put forward contemporary opinions on 
this subject, and here is what a master Barbey d'Aurevilly 
thought of Baudelaire's style : 

' Picture to yourself something in flamboyant Gothic or Moorish 
architecture applied to this simple construction which has a subject, 
object, and verb \ then in the crumblings and flutings of a sentence 
which takes as many diverse forms as would crystal, imagine all that 
is richest and strongest in every spice, every alcohol, every poison, 


mineral, vegetable, and animal, which is drawn out of the heart of 
man if they could be rendered visible, and you have Baudelaire's 
poetry, this sinister, violent, heartrending, deadly poetry, approached 
by nothing in the most sombre works of this age which is conscious 
of its approaching death.' 

Baudelaire always respected the laws of syntax ; the 
poet, in the same way as Delacroix compared with the neo- 
impressionists, is a classic compared with the decadents. 

But his great disciple Huysmans was soon to appear, 
and he was to disarticulate and dissect his language. Let 
us take, for example, the passage that M. Paul Bourget 
quotes in his Etudes et Portraits, the passage which is to 
be found in Huysmans' novel En Menage : 

* Then add a wild hubbub, hoarse shouts, answered by the shrill 
rattle like women's voices ; then on every side, under the verdi- 
grised tarpaulins, the flapping of blue and white workmen's blouses, 
red notes struck by the jerseys, spots of mauve daubed in by 
the striped blouses of the butchers ; finally the white of women's 
coifs, and the sable in the ceaseless rise and fall of caps in the 
endless tide of heads.' 

' Examine this sentence,' says M. Bourget, ' limb by limb, putting 
aside all your recollections of classical prose. Is it not true that the 
writer sees in objects no longer their line but their stroke, the kind 
of discordant hole they make upon the uniform background of day, 
and that the almost barbaric decomposition of adjective and sub- 
stantive seems to produce itself naturally; les noirs des casquettes . . . 
les coups de rouge des giletsl . . .' 

We will take Certains and open it at random. Here is 
a description of the entry of the crusaders into Constanti- 
nople. After having described the abject fatigue of their 
faces, he shows us the ' fumees de sentiments qui passent 
sur elles,' and, doubtless to show us to what point he 
follows the precepts of his master, speaks to us of a 'hallali 
de flammes de couleurs sur un fond d'ocean et de ciel d'un 
splendide bleu.' 

If we open En Route again, what finer transposition of 
art can be found than this passage : 


' These children's voices stretched to breaking point, these clear 
sharp voices threw into the darkness of the chant the paleness 
of dawn; joining the pure soft muslin of their notes to the sounding 
bronze of the basses, piercing as with a jet of living silver the 
sombre cataract of the deeper voices, they sharpened the wailing, 
strengthened and embittered the burning salt of tears, but also 
insinuated a kind of protective caress, balsamic cool, lustral aid: 
they lit up in the darkness those brief gleams which tinkle in the 
angelus at dawn ; they evoked, anticipating the prophecies of the 
text, the compassionate image of the Virgin, who in the pale light 
of their notes, passed into the night of that chant.' 

Baudelaire never went quite so far as this in language, 
but he had shown the way with this sentence on Edgar 

'Like our great Eugene Delacroix, who raised his art to the 
height of great poetry, Edgar Poe loves to make his figures act 
upon greenish violet backgrounds whereon are revealed the phos- 
phorescence of decay and the scent of storm.' 

In En Route Huysmans has written some such as- 
tonishing pages that we no longer read his book for the 
sake of the story, but rather to admire the mastery one 
might almost say the butcherly mastery with which he 
makes martyr of his language. 

Let us sum up. Baudelaire and Delacroix are expres- 
sions of their age. By their teaching, by their work, 
they have gained admirers and disciples, but herein their 
age too has been a great help to them. 

In no age was so much attention paid to science and 
exotism. Through science the painter was able to com- 
pose a wonderful chromatic repertoire for himself. 

On the exotic side Japanese influence too was to make 
itself felt, bringing with it, as it were, a new conception 
of art (the conception was in nowise new. Hokusai's 
work reminds Edmond de Goncourt of the delightful 
gribouillis of Gabriel de St. Aubin), or at least an old 
conception which appeared new, and which seemed, in its 
exotism, a more delightful form of impressionism. 




But when the influence of Delacroix, and the relation 
between the minds of Delacroix and Baudelaire have been 
pointed out, we have not finished with the subject of 
Baudelairism in painting. 

Baudelaire had in time become a force and in his turn 
reacted upon certain artistic minds, and on the most 
sensitive and the most literary of these such as Gustave 
Moreau, Degas, Odilon Redon, the etcher Rops, and that 
exquisite draughtsman who in his turn is also a creator 
Aubrey Beardsley. 

The side of Baudelaire that influenced Moreau is the 
artificial side. Theophile Gautier, speaking of Baude- 
laire's curious poem, called * Reve Parisien,' and which is 
dedicated to Constantin Guys (who is so little known and 
so interesting), wrote the following lines : 

' Imagine an extra-natural landscape, or rather a perspective com- 
posed of metal, marble and water, and from which the vegetable is 
banished as being irregular. Everything is rigid, polished, glistening 
under a sunless, moonless, starless sky. In the midst of the silence 
of eternity there rise up, lit by their own fire, palaces, turrets, 
colonnades, staircases, reservoirs whence great cataracts fall 
like crystal curtains. Blue waters frame themselves like the steel of 
antique mirrors in the quays and bronze basins, where precious 
stones flow silently under the bridges. The liquid is set in 
crystalline rays, and the porphyry flags on the terrace reflect 
the surrounding objects like a looking-glass. The Queen of Sheba 
walking there would have held up her gown fearing to make her 
feet wet, so shining are the surfaces. The style of this piece is as 
brilliant as polished black marble.' 

Does not this read like an ante-dated description of 
some of Moreau's paintings? 

If we turn once more to Huysmans' Certains (for it is 
always to him that we have recourse when there is 
question of describing certain pictures), we find this 
description of Gustave Moreau's work : 


1 Upon this background with its terrible turmoil there pass to and 
fro in silence women, some nude, some clad in stuffs embroidered 
with uncut gems like the bindings of old missals, women with silky 
flaxen hair ; pale blue eyes, fixed and hard ; with flesh of icy milk-like 
whiteness ; motionless Salomes holding in a basin the head of the 
Forerunner preserved in phosphorus, and sending forth rays of light 
under quincunxes with twisted leaves of a green so dark it is almost 
black; goddesses riding upon hippogriffs, striping with their lapis 
wings the agony of the dying skies ; crowned female idols, erect on 
their thrones whose steps are lost under weird flowers, or seated in 
rigid positions upon elephants whose foreheads are swathed in green, 
their chests covered with orphrey, with long pearls sewn on like 
cavalry bells, elephants who trampled upon their massive reflection 
shown in a pool rippled by the columns of their huge braceleted 

Here, Huysmans strives to rival the painter in richness 
of colour. 1 We will only say in our turn that Gustave 
Moreau, who early shut himself up in his ivory tower 
(like so many nineteenth-century artists whose motto is 
Odi profanum vulgus), was seeking all his life, while he 
painted antique myth in magnificent background, to 
express the sadness of another Baudelaire a Baudelaire 
who was gnawing at his heart. 

How far removed are these Salomes, these Jasons, 
these Venuses, these Herodiases, these Centaurs from the 
conception of ancient myth or of the Bible ! It is the 
nineteenth-century malady that racks them, and their 
languor and their sadness are rendered the more profound 
by these fantastic landscapes which intoxicate and dazzle. 

If we wish to understand to what extent Gustave Moreau 
is Baudelairian, we have only to think of Puvis de 

1 A page from Huysmans' La Cathtdrale furnishes further proof of the way 
in which the writer of this school utilises the painter's weapons. Huysmans 
wants to convey to us that the character of the Queen of Sheba who visited 
Solomon is in the highest degree interesting. You might expect him to refer 
you to a contemporary French psychologian. Not at all. He has recourse to 
a painter, to Gustave Moreau, as if this artist's brush were capable of expressing 
by means of colour the shades of this mysterious queen's soul. 


Chavannes, who is a kind of Virgil. There is no better 
rendering of this painter's art than those lines of 

Virgil,' ' 

* Devenere locos laetos et amoena vireta 
Fortunatorum nemorum, sedesque beatas. 
Largior hie campus aether et lumine vestit 
Purpureo ; solemque suum, sua sidera norunt,' 

just as no landscape is more elysian than that of Puvis de 

We cannot hope to study here the work of such artists 
as Degas, the master, as Forain, his pupil, as Felicien 
Rops, or as Odilon Redon. In all of them we find the 
same condition of mind, the same feeling of contempt, of 
hatred even for the world they live in. Odilon Redon in 
order to escape from it paints macabre and somnambulic 
figures, which distantly recall those of Gustave Moreau, 
and with him nightmare re-enters art for the love of the 
grotesque is of all time. 

Felicien Rops intellectually libertine and morally vir- 
tuous like Watteau, threw himself into Satanism, and 
it is to him far more than to Goethe that this passage of 
Emerson applies : 

'Take the most remarkable example that could occur of this 
tendency to verify every term in popular use. The Devil has 
played an important part in mythology in all times. Goethe would 
have no word that does not cover a thing * 

(how well that applies to Rops !) 

' so he flies at the throat of this imp. He shall be real, he shall 
be modern, he shall dress " like a gentleman " and walk in the 
streets, and be well initiated in the life of Vienna and of Heidelberg 
in 1820 or he shall not exist. . . . He found that the essence of 
this hobgoblin which had hovered in shadow about the habitations 
of men, ever since there were men, was pure intellect applied as 
always there is a tendency to the service of the senses. . . .' l 

1 Emerson, Representative Men : 'Goethe or the Writer.' 


As for Degas and Forain, who are both exceedingly 
powerful artists, 1 they took from Baudelaire his love of 
realism not the simple realism of Courbet, but a realism 
which is able, while remaining always open, to show us 
the reality which lies hid under the appearance of things. 


A study of Baudelairism in painting would be in- 
complete did we not speak of a young artist who met 
with premature death at the age of twenty-six, and who 
might be called the Baudelaire of the pencil a Baudelaire 
in miniature, unhealthy, feminine, and in nowise classic. 

With his first works Aubrey Beardsley became cele- 
brated his drawings went further than those of the 
artists of the moment, they haunted you for whole days 
together, and took you into the mysterious and terrible 
country whose gates Botticelli's angels seem to open 
rather than to guard. 

Critics who study his drawings (for practically all 
Aubrey Beardsley's work is pen and ink drawing) always 
discern the influence of Burne Jones on the young artist. 
And we know that it was from Botticelli that Burne Jones 
took his women's faces, lengthening the chin, sensualis- 
ing the lips, and hollowing the middle of the face. Are 
we then to attribute the magic of Beardsley's work to 
a single artifice in drawing? No, for we have certain 
drawings and some letters which explain the peculiar 
character and the Baudelairism of his art. In that 
collection of his Last Letters we find this passage : 

' Do you know of Fr. Philpin of the Brompton oratory ? He is, 
I believe, the doyen of the community and a considerable painter. 

1 Cf. Huysmans'Z'ar/iWdkrw^p. 120: Quand comprendra-t-onquecepeintre 
(Degas) est le plus grand que nous possedions aujourd'hui en France? Je ne 
suis pas prophete, mais si j'en juge par 1'ineptie des classes e'claire'es qui, apres 
avoir longtemps honni Delacroix, ne se doute pas encore que Baudelaire est le 
poete de genie du XIX 6 siecle, qu'il domine de cent pieds tous les autres. . . .' 


But what a stumbling-block such pious men must find in the 
practice of their art.' 

This is an illuminating- passage on the conception that 
Beardsley had of his art. 

Aubrey Beardsley saw that Burne Jones only arrived 
at the mannered elegance of his figures, and at the now 
reflective, now evil passion of their attitude by violating 
certain laws of drawing (for example, by drawing people 
eight and a half heads high). 

So in his turn he set himself to dislocate and exaggerate 
limbs as Burne Jones had done before him. 1 He gave 
rein to his fancy, and his drawings were veritable 
stumbling-blocks for every one but himself. 

The Japanese, as was to be expected, early had a great 
influence on him. Their exquisite drawings, in which 
the daintiness of everything Japanese charms us so 
much, could not fail to please a draughtsman who was 
himself so delicate. 

But Beardsley is never caricatural (as are his German 
imitators). His charm lies precisely in the fact that he is 
excessive and true at the same time ; he rides a capricious 
steed along by the frontier of unreality, but never crosses 
the boundary. 

In his literary experiments Aubrey Beardsley showed 
the same curiously artificial imagination. Writing was in 
his eyes an intricate game. He composed sentences that 
pleased him with combinations of curiously invented words, 
and then proceeded to discover how best he could fit 
them into a scheme. His ' Under the Hill,' an unfinished 
adaptation of the Tannhauser legend, is a commentary 
on his imagination. Everything is artificial, but with such 
detailed artificiality. The book opens at evening : 

' It was taper-time ; when the tired earth puts on its cloak of 

1 As M. Robert de la Sizeranne has remarked, Burne Jones always exaggerates 
the width of the hips in his women and diminishes it in his men, and always 
throws all the weight of the body on to one leg. 


mists and shadows, when the enchanted woods are full of delicate 
influences, and even the beaux, seated at their dressing-tables, 
dream a little.' 

The description of the garden is as complete as any of 
his drawings : 

' In the middle was a huge bronze fountain with three basins. 
From the first rose a many-breasted dragon and four little loves 
mounted upon swans, and each love was furnished with a bow and 
arrow. Two of them that faced the dragon seemed to recoil in 
fear, two that were behind made bold enough to aim their shafts at 
him. From the verge of the second sprang a circle of slim golden 
columns that supported silver doves with tails and wings spread 
out. The third, held by a group of grotesquely attenuated satyrs, 
is centred with a thin pipe hung with masks and roses and capped 
with children's heads.' 

And is not this an entirely characteristic description of 
Fanfreluche's appearance : 

1 He wore long black silk stockings, a pair of pretty garters, a 
very elegant ruffled shirt, slippers, and a wonderful dressing-gown.' 

The description of the Woods of Auffray^ though less 
sharply defined, is even more atmospheric : 

' In the distance through the trees gleamed a still argent lake, a 
reticent water that must have held the subtlest fish that ever were. 
Around its marge the trees and flags and fleurs de luce were un- 
breakably asleep. 

* I fell into a strange mood as I looked at the lake, for it seemed 
to me that the thing would speak, reveal some curious secret, say 
some beautiful word if I should dare to wrinkle its pale face with a 

'Then the lake took fantastic shapes, grew to twenty times its 
size, or shrank into a miniature of itself without ever closing its 
unruffled calm and deathly reserve. When the waters increased I 
was very frightened, for I thought how huge the frogs must have 
become. I thought of their big eyes and monstrous wet feet ; but 
when the water lessened I laughed to myself, for I thought how tiny 
the frogs must have grown ; I thought of their legs that must look 


thinner than spiders ; of their dwindled croaking that never could 
be heard. 

' Perhaps the lake was only painted after all ; I had seen things like 
it at the theatre. Anyhow it was a wonderful lake, a beautiful lake.' 

Though so often macabre (had he a presentiment of his 
approaching end?) yet he has the sense of joy a joy 
which is cold and cunning. For him who has eyes to 
see, his illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Salome are its most 
terrible criticism. While Oscar Wilde meant to write a 
poetical-religious-sensual drama, Aubrey Beardsley with 
the thousand arabesques of his pen illustrated a vicious 
comedy. He shows us a sort of fairyland, enigmatic, as 
is every proper fairyland, and it is so interesting that we 
forget the subject in thinking of the artist's elaborations. 

He could be mystic too (and it should be remembered 
that he died a good Catholic), as in his Saint Rosa of 
Lima. Had he, later, thrown himself into devotional art, 
his exquisite talent would have renewed the inspiration 
of that religious art which Huysmans so happily called 

There is nothing Latin nor Italian in him, but a good 
deal of eighteenth-century France. It is when he is 
drawing frills and furbelows, great ladies' paniers, em- 
broidered corsages, flowers and powder puffs, and all the 
thousand tiny details that contain so much of woman's 
personality that he is in his element. 

To accuse him of immorality were but idleness ; for he 
plays with the surface of things. We have the impression 
of a cold temperament united with a riotous imagination. 

However that may be, Baudelaire would have re- 
cognised a descendant in this sincere artist who is dis- 
satisfied with the world and with life, and who has left 
us a picture of it which, though it be at certain moments 
satanic, with hint of phosphorus and cantharides, is never 
gross, never coarse, but always charming and truly 



THE impotence of language to analyse emotion never 
comes home to us with so much force as when we come 
to consider the feelings aroused in us by music. Still it 
has appeared to us interesting to see if we^can discover in 
music any trace of the Baudelairian spirit. 

The first thing that strikes us in modern music is that 
our age, though an age of extremely advanced technical 
mastery, is not an age of deep inspiration and it is the 
change of inspiration that marks the difference between 
the modern and classical music. 

The change of inspiration may be conveniently taken 
as beginning with Wagner (Wagner being the great 
theoretician and leaving aside for the moment the 
question of what Wagner owed to Weber). It was 
Wagner who first so definitely proclaimed the importance 
of the universality of art, declaring that since painting, 
literature, and music suggest only one mode of life, and 
that life is the union of these three, the aim of the artist 
now should be to show this union in his art. 

As he says in his letter on Music : 

' I recognised that it was just where one of these arts reached its 
impassable limits that with most rigorous precision the sphere of 
action of the next began, and that consequently with the intimate 
union of these two arts one would express with the most satisfactory 
clearness what each of them could not express by itself and that, 
on the contrary, any effort to render by means of one of them that 
which could only be rendered by the two together must necessarily 
lead to obscurity to confusion first, and then to the degeneration 
and corruption of each art in particular.' 


As Wagner himself pointed out, not all subjects are 
open to this : ' It would be dangerous to transpose a 
genre picture into frescoe.' 

That Wagner succeeded in his aim is proved by the 
fact that many people to whom music in the ordinary 
way makes no strong appeal are attracted by Wagner, 
and if you discuss Wagner with such people you will 
find that they make a pictorial interpretation of his 
music. Wagner himself laid stress on the importance 
of scenery ; his view is that of Schiller, ' Die Musik in 
hochste Veredlung muss Gestalt werden.' We do not 
for a moment mean to suggest that all Wagnerites 
interpret Wagner in this way, only it is certain that a 
great number of people who are not deep musicians 
delight in Wagner's music and interpret it into ' clear 
outlines,' * running streams,' 'green peaceful forests/ 
That is the aim of Wagner's music. But Wagner, of 
course, is helped by the story he weaves his music 
round one of the world's greatest legends, and it cannot 
be denied that our knowledge of it helps him to produce 
the desired sensation. The question is rather to decide to 
what point and in what way purely instrumental music 
realises the Baudelairian ideal of suggestive art of 
sensation. Baudelaire himself said on this subject : 

' I have often heard it said that music could not boast of 
translating anything whatsoever with the same certainty as words 
or painting. This is true up to a certain point, but it is not quite 
true. It translates in its own way and by the means at its disposal. 
In music, as in painting and in writing, there is always a gap filled 
in by the imagination of the hearer. 

1 The really surprising thing would be if sound could not suggest 
colour, if colour could not give an idea of melody, and if sound 
and colour were unable to translate ideas; since things have ex- 
pressed themselves by means of a reciprocal analogy from the day 
on which God pronounced the world a complex indivisible totality.' 

But with this theory the hearer is left more or less free 


to draw what interpretation he will from the music he 
hears it becomes a question of mood. 

But the * Baudelairian ' composer goes further, and 
translates into his music a certain idea, and that idea only. 

To take an example from vocal music, from perhaps 
the most perfect collection of songs ever written the 
1 Dichterliebe ' of Schumann. We have only to think of 
how an indifferent singer can entirely destroy the effect 
of the close : 

' Da hab' ich ihn verstanden 
Mein Sehnung und Verlangen ' 

spite of Heine's words, and then turn to Strauss's songs 
and think of the closing effect of * Morgen ' : 

* Und auf uns sinkt des Gluckes stummes Schweigen ' 

of which given of course that the singer consent to 
follow musical direction, and does not sing fortissimos 
where the composer marks pianissimos the effect cannot 
be destroyed, will always suggest ineffable ecstasy. Our 
object was in no way to prove Strauss a greater lied- 
writer than Schumann, nor even to compare the two, but 
simply to point out that into the modern music has entered 
a new element the element of the literary idea. And if 
it be objected that songs are no proof on account of the 
resource they gather from the words we have only to 
think of Strauss's instrumental work to see that the same 
holds true. 

For what is this continual series of ' symphonic poems ' 
but the effort to produce a literary sensation through 
music? We have only to think of the titles. In the old 
days the composer came forward and gave you a 
symphony in A or a suite in G, now we are given a 
* Heldenleben,' or an 'Also sprach Zarathustra,' and a 
humorously charming ' Till Eulenspiegel ' ; inspiration 
has become artificial. In the same way, the Wagnerian 
use of motives is another method of personifying the idea. 


Strauss, of course, has carried on this device, though not 
so plainly in ' Elektra,' yet very definitely in ' Salome.' 

Debussy does not make this use of motives, and 
thus his music is more purely ' Baudelairian ' in that 
it is more purely sensational. Strauss's music, too, is 
sensational, but in a different way. He produces his 
sensational effects through the tension to which he has 
screwed up our nerves. * Elektra,' with the exception of 
the beautiful meeting of Orestes and Elektra, is merely 
the impression of terror from beginning to end, and the 
nervous strain of following it grows greater, and not less, 
as we hear it more often. 1 

The Baudelairian aim at ' astonishing,' which un- 
doubtedly does play its part in Strauss's advanced 
orchestration, is here allowed free play. Mr. Machen, 
speaking on a different subject, well pointed out that 
production of sensation is not necessarily art, and takes 
the case of a woman receiving a telegram telling her her 
husband has been killed in a railway accident ; she 
experiences a sensation, an emotion of the strongest 
order, but the telegram is not art. The same could be 
applied within limits to some of Strauss's compositions. 
The sensation of Debussy, on the other hand, is of a 
different type far gentler, far more impressionist. Like 
Strauss he yields from time to time to pure desire to 
astonish, and writes series of discords which produce a 
strong protesting thrill from our nerves. 

There is no music which is so difficult to analyse in 
words as Debussy's. It is all atmosphere mysterious, 
elusive, and to the highest point impressionist. This 
is partially explicable by his use of the open scale, 
and in his vocal work by his suppression of voice. 
The older lied-writers write for the voice, aiming at 

1 Cf. Nietzsche's reproach to Wagner that he has made music morbid, and 
again, 'he has divined in music the expedient for exciting fatigued nerves,' 
which is certainly what Strauss does. 


giving the voice scope for showing its beauty. Debussy 
and his school keep the voice at a pianissimo, and aim 
only at making it render the effect of their idea. And the 
sensation produced, the form of enjoyment, is literary. 
The ' Flute de Pan,' for example, from the very opening 
transports us into another world a Pan-ic world ; it is 
a shrill scale on Pan's pipe, and we are made to think 
of satyrs and fauns, and the legends we know of them. 
It is this quality which enabled Debussy to give his 
perfect translation of ' L'Apres-midi d'un Faune.' There 
is nothing contemplative in our state of mind then, or 
very little ; it is pathological only. 

There is no great feeling in such music, nor can we 
transport our deep feelings into it in this way it is 
the most entirely removed from didacticism (if such 
expression be not too far-fetched), and therein again 

Again, what is this taste of modern composers for 
continual change of time signature but the musical 
translation of what the advanced * vers libristes ' did for 
poetry, the same breaking up of traditional measures ? 

Debussy himself says that it is well for the composer 
to be entirely detached from his age he has the Baude- 
lairian fear of nature as a disturbing element. Cesar 
Franck, too, believed in this theory of detachment, and 
carried his theory into effect ; yet side by side with the 
detached purity of his religious music exists his ' Sonata 
for Violin and Piano ' the greatest passionate cry of 
modern music. But Debussy carries his art-for-art theory 
to the point of banishing passion. Hence the coldness 
of his music, the continual impression of artificiality 
neither of which qualities make for durability. 



THERE is no more well-worn commonplace than the 
reproach made to Baudelaire and his school of lacking 
sincerity. By that is meant doubtless that the Baude- 
lairians with their desire to epater le bourgeois merely 
aimed at having thoughts different from those of the 
common ruck. 

'II nous faut du nouveau, n'en fut-il plus au monde,' 
such is the motto of their school ; and if the reader be 
scandalised, so much the better ! 

The best answer to such criticism is to be found, 
curiously enough, in Mr. A. J. Balfour's remarkable 
Foundations of Belief. The shades of the Baudelairians 
may well rejoice in such an advocate. 

In the chapter on < Naturalism and ^Esthetic,' Mr. 
Balfour writes : 

'In music, the artist's desire for originality of expression has 
been aided generation after generation by the discovery of new 
methods, new forms, new instruments. From the bare simplicity 
of the ecclesiastical chant or the village dance to the ordered 
complexity of the modern score, the art has passed through 
successive stages of development, in each genius has discovered 
devices of harmony, devices of instrumentation, and devices of 
rhythm which would have been musical paradoxes to preceding 
generations and became musical commonplaces to the generations 
that followed after.' 

Apply this statement not only to music, but to all the 

1 In the Eye-Witness of June 27, 1912, appeared a remarkable article by 
J. C. Squire, entitled 'A Dead Man,' to which we take the liberty of referring 
the reader. Therein he will see again the permanent influence of Baudelaire, 
which it was the aim of this book to prove. 


arts, and you have the explanation of the fact that that 
which is a mere commonplace in the eyes of the man on 
your right, is a * joy for ever ' in the eyes of the man on 
your left. 

Our senses are, of course, infinitely subtilised by use 
the eyes and ears of the mature man who has read and 
thought are quite different from what they were in his 
youth. And as they become more subtle, they grow 
proportionately more exacting. 

Ever since the time of Zeuxis, painting has discovered 
new manners of representing the universe, each manner 
more intense with the succeeding centuries. Titian's 
colour, which would have dazzled Parrhasius, is already 
sombre in our eyes. 

In the same way, ever since the time of the Assyrian 
potter man has sought to paint in words Nature's infinite 
diversity. What we call ' impressionism ' in art is 
nothing but the very natural desire to make the life-blood 
of things course through the fibres of the paper under the 
printed page. 

It is possible, as Mr. Balfour says, that 'this amazing 
musical development has added little to the felicity of 
mankind. 5 But what recked Baudelaire of benefits to the 
human race? His business was with Art. In his eyes 
as in ours the sacred character of a work of art lies in 
the fact that it represents (or better still suggests) the 
prodigious efforts of human genius lying behind it. 

In all ages, in all countries, the immutable light of 
Beauty has appeared to the artist ; every age contributes 
to the widening of the furtive fugitive rays from the 
matchless vision. 

As M. Bergson has so well observed, there is between 
ourselves and nature, nay, between ourselves and our own 
consciousness, a veil. With the ordinary man it is dense, 
impenetrable almost, but with the poet wellnigh trans- 



Art, then, should aim first of all at soaking off the labels 
that long habit has imposed on things, should set aside all 
commonplace and well-worn generalities, in order to show 
us things as they are, to reveal nature to us. 

Let us then be grateful to Baudelaire and the line of his 
great followers, since they have been able to suggest to us 
new combinations of words, colours, and sounds such as 
literature, painting and music were incapable of expressing 
before them. 













Bibliog. romantique. (A. de Vigny, 

Gautier, Borel, Bertrand, etc.) 1811- 


Les ceuvres et les hommes. 1860-95. 
Les dernieres colonnes de 1'eglise, 1903. 

1860-95. Fifteen vols. 
Essais de psychol. contemporaine. 4 e 

Edition. 1885. Nouveaux Essais de 

psychol. contemporaine. 1886. 
Nouveaux essais de critique litteraiie. 

Les mystiques dans la litt. presente. 


Etudes litteraires du 19* siecle. 1887. 
La Vie Litteraire. Three vols., 1891. 
English Literature in the Nineteenth 

Century. 1901. 
Questions at issue. 1893. 
Les Contemporains. 1886-99. Seven 

vols. . 
L'Evolution des idees chez quelques-uns 

de nos contemporains. 1904. 
Les Miens. 1892. 
La Litterature de tout a 1'heure. 1889. 

1 This list only aims at mentioning those works which were of most use to us. 
A comprehensive bibliography of this subject would require a volume to itself. 
The best books to read are those of the authors themselves ; in these days of 
cheap reprints these masterpieces are within the reach of all. 





De Dante a Verlaine. 

L'Elite. 1899. 

History of Criticism. Vol. iii. 1904. 

Symbolist Movement in Literature. 

2nd ed. 1908. 

Essais de critique et d'histoire. 1858. 
Nos Maitres. 1895. 

Reference has also been made to the obituary notices in the 
Journal des Dlbats^ the Figaro, and the Temps, and the valuable 
bibliographies of Thieme. 








Souvenirs, correspondances, bibliog. 

suivie de pieces inedits, ed. Charles 

C. 1872. 
Charles Baudelaire, e*tude biographique, 

suivie des Baudelairana d'Asselineau. 

Charles Baudelaire. 1909. 


E. A. Poe, his Life, Letters and Opinions. 

Edgar Poe, sa vie et ses ceuvres : etude 

de psychol. pathologique. 1904. 

(Bibliog., pp. 721-30.) 
E. A. Poe. 1908. (Grenzfragen der 

Literatur und Medizin, Hft. 8.) 
Influence of T. A. Hoffmann on the Tales 

of Poe. (Study in Philol, Univ. of 

N. Carolina, iii.). 1908. 
Edgar Poe. 1910. 


Un coin de litt. sous le Second Empire. 


Notice pref. to Poesies Completes de 
Sainte-Beuve. Two vols., 1879. 
(Part of Petite Bibl. litt.) 


HARPER, G. M. C. A. Sainte-Beuve. (French Men of 

Letters.) 1909.. 
TURQUET, A. Pref. to Profils Anglais. (Les Classiques 

Francois.) 1908. 


ASSELINEAU. Bibliog. Romantique, pp. 75-87. 

CHABEUF, HENRI. L. Bertrand et le Romantisme a Dijon. 

(Memoires de PAcad. des sciences, 
arts, et belles lettres de Dijon, 4 se'r., 
T. i.) Dijon. 1889. 

CLARETIE, J. Petrus Borel, sa vie, ses ecrits, poe'sies 

et documents inedits. 1865. 
Pref. to Madame Putiphar, 1877-8. 
Two vols. 


MAXIME DU CAMP. T. Gautier. 1890. (Les grands ecri- 

vains franc.ais.) 
SPOELBERCH DE LOVEN- Histoire des ceuvres de T. Gautier. 

JOUL. 1887. 

TOURNEUX, MAURICE. Th. Gautier. 1876. Bibliographic. 


DE ROUGEMONT, E. V. de 1'Isle Adam. 1910. Bibliog., 

pp. 364-92. 


GRELE, EUGENE. Barbey d'Aurevilly, sa vie et son ceuvre, 

d'apres sa correspondance inedite. 
1902. Two vols. 

BUET, CHARLES. Medallions et camees. 1885. 

LEPELLETIER, E. Paul Verlaine, sa vie, son oeuvre, etc. 

1907. (English translation, 1909.) 

SCH ET BERTAUT. Paul Verlaine (Vie anecdotique et pit- 

toresque des grands ecrivains). 



Les Poetes Maudits. 


cf. also BLOY LEON. 









Pref. to Pensees et Prieres catholiques 

de J. K. Huysmans. 1910. 
Dernieres colonnes de FEglise. 
L'Evolution des idees chez quelques-uns 

de nos contemporains. 


Souvenirs d'un vieux critique. 1884. 
Les oeuvres. 1890. 
Medaillons et Camees. 1885. 


Les jeunes. 1896. 
La comedie litt. 1895. 
La fenetre ouverte, 1902. 


Divagations. 1897. 
Poetes Maudits. 
Questions at issue. 

Albert Samain. 1905. 


Jules Laforgue. 1896. 


Swinburne. 1905. (Contemp. Men of 

Letters ser.) 
A. C. Swinburne. 1899. (English 

Writers of To-day.) 




MOULTON, L. C. Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Life and Work. 



BLEI, F. In Memoriam Oscar Wilde. 1905. 

HAGEMANN, C. Oscar Wilde (Stud, zur mod. welt. lit). 


SHERARD, R. H. Oscar Wilde. 

WEISZ, E. Psychologische Streifziige iiber Oscar 

Wilde. 1908. 


Reflexions critiques sur la poesie et la 

peinture. 1719. 
L'Art du dix-huitieme siecle. Two vols., 

Eugene Delacroix (Masterpieces in colour 


PATTISON, EMMA F. S. French Painters of the Eighteenth 
(afterwards LADY DILKE). Century. 1899. 

Du Bos. 





Audoux, Marguerite, 12. 

Beardsley, Aubrey, 221, 277-80. 
Bertrand, Aloysius, 80-101. 
Benson, R. H., 249. 
Borel, Petrus, 102-15. 
Boucher, 265. 

Bourget, Paul, 4, 5, 16, 145. 
Browning, E. B., 264. 
Browning, Robert, 58, 95. 
Brunetiere, Ferdinand, 16, 173-4. 
Burns, Robert, 101. 
Burne-Jones, 275. 

Charcot, Dr., 60. 
Chateaubriand, Rene de, 173. 
Cladel, Leon, 212. 
Claretie, Jules, 102. 
Constant, Benjamin, 4-9. 
Corbiere, Tristan, 160-4. 
Courbet, 274. 
Coypel, 263. 
Cros, Charles, 164. 

DARWIN, 15. 

David, Louis, 263. 

David d'Angers, 86, 88. 

Debussy, 286-7. 

Degas, 276. 

Delacroix, 116, 266-73. 

Dijon, 81. 

Douglas, Lord Alfred, 258-9. 

Douglas, James, 224, 225. 

Duval, Jeanne, 24, 28. 

EMERSON, 274. 

FRANCE, ANATOLE, 113, 143. 
Fragonard, 265. 
Forain, 276. 

GAUTIER, THEOPHILE, 25, 43, 102, 

114, 116-20, 222. 
Gissing, George, 136. 
Goya, 65. 

Hebbel, Friedrich, 194. 
Hoffmann, 101. 
Hugo, Victor, 86, 91, 222. 
Huysmans, J. K., 165-75, 195, 274. 

Johnson, Dr., 94. 

KEATS, 238. 


Laforgue, 161, 164, 206-12, 248. 

Labor, see Cazalis. 

Lancret, 203. 

Lamartine, 15. 

Lamenais, 15. 

Lang, Andrew, 72. 

Lauvriere, Emile, 69. 

Lemaitre, Jules, 22, 60, 170. 

Lewis, Monk, 63. 

Lucretius, 8. 

MACHEN, ARTHUR, 219, 249, 250-3. 
Maeterlinck, 213. 
Maistre, Joseph de, 15. 
Mallarme', 194-9, 22 - 
Manet, 65. 

Maupassant, Guy de, 37. 
Merrill, Stuart, 214-15. 



Michelet, Jules, 93. 
Middleton, Richard, 259-61. 
Moore, George, 253-8. 
Moreas, Jean, 158, 245. 
Morice, Charles, 155. 
Morris, William, 239. 

Nietzsche, 44. 
Nodier, Charles, 86. 



Pavie, Victor, 82, 86, 89. 

Peladan, II. 

Provost, L'Abb, 4. 

Poe, Edgar, 33, 34, 44, 54, 63, 72. 

Poussin, Nicolas, 266. 

Puvis de Chavannes, 276. 

Redon, Odilon, 276. 
Rimbaud, Arthur, 12, 147. 
Rivarol, 134. 
Rochefoucauld, La, 7. 
Rodenbach, Georges, 71, 184-93. 
Rollinat, Maurice, 176-83. 
Rops, Felicien, 276. 
Rossetti, D. G., 8, 238. 
Russell, G. (A. E.), 249. 

Samain, Albert, 158, 200-5. 

Sainte-Beuve, 9-14, 22, 41, 73-9, 82, 

84, 101, 132. 
Scott, Walter, 85. 
Shelley, 220. 
Spencer, Herbert, 6. 
Stevenson, R. L., 244. 
Stendhal, n, 219. 
Strauss, Richard, 285-6. 
Swinburne, 221, 222-9. 
Symons, Arthur, 165, 244, 249-50. 
Synge, J. M., 249. 

Treznik, Leo, 161. 
Turner, 244. 

VAN Loo, 265. 

Verhaeren, 212-13. 

Verlaine, 146-59, 161, 209, 237, 248. 

Vigny, Alfred de, 14-17. 

Villiers de 1'Isle Adam, n, 68, 123-34, 

169, 209, 213, 220. 
Villon, 149. 
Voltaire, 4. 

WAGNER, RICHARD, 130, 283-4. 

Watts, G. F., 266. 

Watteau, 21, 22. 

Whistler, T. A. M., 48-9, 244. 

Wilde, Oscar, 221, 237-48. 

YEATS, 257. 

ZOLA, EMILE, 13, 30, 34. 

Printed by T. and A. CONSTABLE, Printers to His Majesty 
at the Edinburgh University Press 



cop. 2 

Turquet-Milnes, Gladys Resa- 
le en 

The influence of Baudela-. 
ire in France and England. 
London, Constable, 1913